This Thursday, the powerful, vibrant exhibition Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires opens at the AGO. And we can’t wait! This show features bold portraits of Black women – including Diana Ross and Diahann Carroll, collage paintings, video installations, photography and several living room tableaux.
To celebrate the exhibition’s opening, on Wednesday, November 28 Mickalene Thomas and Antwaun Sargent, a New York-based writer and critic, join us for a sold-out talk in Baillie Court. While the two are longtime friends and creative collaborators, this is the first time they’ll participate in a public talk together.
We chatted with Antwaun to learn more about the power of art, some of his favourite books and what we can expect from his upcoming talk with Mickalene.
AGO: You’ve written before about the power of art. What did you mean by that?
Antwaun: There’s a history in Western art that comments on specific kinds of beauty, power, desire and representation. As an arts writer and critic, I look at what the Black voice can reveal about that conversation. Mickalene’s work shows her deep engagement with art history and Black womanhood. She creates empowering images, sparking conversations about the reality of Black women today.
AGO: How can social media increase the visibility of Black artists and other artists of colour?
Antwaun: On my Instagram or Twitter accounts, I try to highlight art, artists and criticism that I’m interested in and that I think the public should see. Accessibility is a barrier to a lot of audiences of colour. And as someone of that community, social media allows me to take my audiences into museums on my terms. It also lets me take my audiences into the studios of artists that may look like them, artists they might share a connection with and who might inspire them to develop a more critical engagement with the world.
AGO: The exhibition’s living room tableaux include books by Black authors. What are some books you’d recommend?
Antwaun: I’d recommend Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Women or White Girls by Hilton Als and The Kitchen Table Series catalogue by Carrie Mae Weems.
AGO: What do you hope attendees get from your upcoming conversation with Mickalene?
Antwaun: I want people to think about how they see themselves in the depictions of strong Black women in Mickalene’s work. This show focuses on a specific experience – that of the Black woman, but it really applies to all of us. A question it raises is, how do you see yourself in someone else’s experience? It’s about empathy.
While Mickalene’s talk with Antwaun is sold out, free rush tickets will be available in person after 6:45 pm the day of the event.
Can’t make the talk? You can still join us for the public opening celebration from 6 –10 pm on Wednesday, November 28 in Walker Court.
Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires opens on Level 5 of the AGO’s Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art on November 29, and is free with General Admission.
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