Blog / From Caravaggio to Cool



By Betsy

This month’s issue of ARTnews magazine is jam-packed with two evocative contemporary artists who have major ties to the Nasher Museum: Mickalene Thomas and Barkley L. Hendricks. Both will take part in a panel discussion on March 16 for the opening of “Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions” at the Nasher Museum.

Mickalene Thomas

From MOMA to the National Portrait Gallery, Mickalene’s work has garnered widespread attention, especially over the past year.  The ARTnews feature describes the evolution of her work—from her humble roots in Camden, New Jersey, to her acceptance into the Yale University School of Art. Using enamel, acrylic and rhinestones, Mickalene aims to redefine the meaning of femininity, beauty and power. According to Thelma Gordon, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, “she simultaneously reinvents and pays tribute to centuries of artistic depictions of women as she draws on an astonishing and inspired range of esthetic, historical and social references. Her work is viciously smart, audaciously sexy, and incredibly beautiful to look at.”

When staffers from the Nasher Museum attended Art Basel Miami Beach in December, they had the opportunity to ogle Mickalene’s rhinestone-studded works.  This only piqued our excitement for Mickalene’s upcoming visit to the Nasher Museum in mid-March, when she will speak at the exhibition opening event celebrating the museum’s 5th year anniversary.


Barkley Hendricks

Another ARTnews article focuses on baroque painter Michelangelo Marsi da Caravaggio. Caravaggio has recently become the focus of scholarly debate and artistic inspiration, creating a phenomenon dubbed, “Caravaggiomania” by academics. Although his paintings date back to the early 17th century, his techniques and controversial focus on sex and death are utterly modern.

Barkley L. Hendricks, the artist whose solo show originated at the Nasher Museum in 2008, was influenced by Caravaggio’s work. On a trip to Europe when he was a young student, Barkley was drawn to Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro—a technique in which he creating a bold contrast between light and dark to attain a sense of volume. Barkley looked at Caravaggio’s use of light and reversed it. “He used white people against dark backgrounds,” Barkley told ARTnews, “and I took black people and but them against light backgrounds.”

The Nasher Museum will be featuring three of Barkley’s works in the upcoming exhibition, “Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions.”

TOP Mickalene Thomas, “Lovely Six Foota,” 2007. C-print; 19 x 23 3/8 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Christen and Derek Wilson, 2010.12.1. Image courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, LLC.

BOTTOM Barkley L. Hendricks, “What’s Going On,” 1974. Oil, acrylic and magna on cotton canvas, 65 3/4 x 83 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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