Mickalene Thomas: Resting Our Eyes Exhibition Considers the Radical Act of Leisure for Black Women

Maxine Wally, W Magazine, January 19, 2023


 The ICA San Francisco show features works from Sadie Barnette, Mickalene Thomas, LaKela Brown, Ebony G. Patterson, and many more.


Whether they knew it at the time or not, Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon—two California-based curators, had the key theme for a compelling art show the very moment that they met. Rasheed, who hails from West Oakland, California; and Breon, a Los Angeles native, ran in similar circles for years (they were both in the youth group The Wide Awakes, have mutual artist friends including Hank Willis Thomas, and went to college at rival schools simultaneously). When they finally linked in person for a creative brainstorm, the two immediately admired each other’s accessories: the gleaming jewelry they both wore, their shiny tooth gems and grills.


“We realized Black women’s adornments are radical forms of self-love, expression, and activism,” Rasheed told me during a recent Zoom call with Breon.


“So we took it upon ourselves to map out the visual vocabulary for Black women’s freedom as it shows up in both our leisure and our adornment,” Breon added. “They’re essential ideas.”


The result is Resting Our Eyes, an exhibition running at ICA San Francisco January 25 through June 25 that features pieces from Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, Lorna Simpson, and many other art-world heavy weights. The works run the gamut in terms of medium: inside the white walls and exposed steel ceilings at the newly opened Bay Area museum, you’ll find photography from Weems; Lauren Halsey’s tactile, fringed wall art; neon lights; video installations, and other mixed media—but all the pieces speak to the central theme of relaxation and ornamentation as avenues for Black women’s freedom.

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