Sunday, June 23, 2024

Bob Thompson at David Zwirner | 52 Walker


“So allow us to all be residents” is a small however enlightening retrospective of painter Bob Thompson’s meteoric profession which ended prematurely on Might 30, 1966—roughly a month earlier than the artist’s twenty-ninth birthday. Deftly curated by 52 Walker’s Ebony L. Haynes, the present presents fourteen oil work, spanning 1960 to 1965, all of which have been loaned from personal collections and museums. The works are strongly influenced by European masters: Fragonard, Gauguin, Poussin, Titian, as we see in a lot of canvases, together with The Swing, 1965, or Triumph of Bacchus, 1964. Such inspirations exude an excellent of inventive perfection in addition to a hyperbolic imaginative and prescient of Arcadia—a world the place injustice and cruelty don’t exist. This imaginary territory will need to have felt like a relieving fantasy for a younger Black man who grew up in Kentucky throughout the Jim Crow period. How does one paint concord or retain innocence, having skilled a lot hate and brutality?

In these pictures, luminous beings undulate in pastoral settings, every radiating their very own private coloration whereas taking part in cheerful group actions—or extra damaging endeavors. Thompson’s use of sunshine provides a tender poetic really feel to those bucolic tableaux, which seem like joyous celebrations of life’s fleeting moments. However hell can also be very a lot current in a number of of Thompson’s canvases, as we see in The Execution, 1961, the place a Black man is hung, blindfolded, and mutilated—a scene that calls to thoughts the lynching of fourteen-year-old Emmett Until, which occurred when the artist was a teen. Due to their facelessness, the artist’s nameless characters may initially strike one as harmless—but their actions regularly reveal that they’re something however. Thompson synthesized historic European portray in outstanding methods. However his lush compositions by no means shied away from ugliness and ache: They provide a contemporary imaginative and prescient of a damaged Arcadia.


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