A review of Waiting on a Prime-Time Star by Mickalene Thomas at the Moody Center for the Arts (Rice University), published in Arts + Culture TX:
There’s a living room constructed in the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University. With vibrant colors set against the drab backdrop of wood paneling, it harkens to decor of the 1970s with a modern twist. It’s hard to say why you’d set a television next to a couch, but this is more of a diorama than a set. The tombstone states that the objects within are part of a tableau created in the artist’s studio, a three-dimensional collage that Mickalene Thomas activates with models during photoshoots and drawing sessions. The ephemera may change over time—On Beauty by Zadie Smith may be set on a shelf elsewhere, or Diana Ross’s To Love Again may see a different spot as the artist thumbs through her collection—but the vibe stays the same.
Waiting on a Prime-Time Star, on view through Jan. 13, 2018, is rife with references to both pop culture and art history. The set occupies a majority of the entryway and sits across from text that explains these references as a means to challenge notions of femininity from a modern perspective. The works hung in and around the installation reflect its vibrancy, giving off an air of pop art as the rhinestones make Mama Bush’s afro sparkle. The artist’s work is lively, energetic. Her process, laid bare in the gallery just beyond the doors, provides insight into why her work never feels still.