There is a certain operatic, archetypal quality to the process Mickalene Thomas uses to create her art work. Her inspiration draws on images of African-American women in popular culture, her own childhood memories, and memes from art history which is a familiar enough way to approach contemporary visual art. But as her unique process moves through stages of photography, collage, and painting on its way to becoming large-scale, technicolor, hyperactively patterned, glittering and literally Bedazzled portraits, landscapes, and interiors, it both charms and disorients. Overstimulating and absurdly beautiful, Thomas' work is both joyful and ominous, as her compositions assembled from heavy lines and blocks of rich color and bold patterns threaten to fly apart before your eyes. But there is also a strangely tranquil quality to the pictures; the way they flirt with abstraction lends a dreamlike interior logic to the tableaux that signals their deeper meanings. "Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe" is her first big solo museum show, and encompasses her iconic portraits of women in domestic settings, as well as her depopulated interiors that are no less rich in expressing the tug of fantasy and nostalgia. New for this show will be a series of landscape paintings that use her full bag of kaleidoscopic visual strategies to take her female figures out into the world beyond the house of memory. Santa Monica Museum of Art, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Fri, April 13, 7-9 p.m.; exhibit runs Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. (310) 586-6488, smmoa.org.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: April 13. Continues through Aug. 18, 2012