Bob Thompson

Portrait of Allen, 1965 – Bob Thompson – oil on canvas 20 ins. x 16 ins.  from the collection of George Nelson Preston

Bob Thompson in his studio on Rivington Street, New York, circa 1964 – Photo by Charles Rotmil

Bob Thompson (1937-1966) – Allen remembers him and sitting for his portrait,(for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian):

“Relationship to Thompson –  Friend, fellow artist, head. (sic)

Peter Orlovsky recalls that we met Bob Thompson thru Leroi Jones (sic) when we got back from Europe ’58. Leroi told us about his first painting show. Perhaps by then??  Already the great canvas “Homage to Ornette Coleman” was ready – (or was that later, ’60?). Anyway I remember a 3-man self-Created Loft Show in Manhattan, Thompson’s first and giant  “Homage to Ornette” filled with raspberry trees -10th Street artists era, late ’50’s  painter Larry Rivers, Miles Forst painter,  Robert Frank, photographer, Mellon Financed art – parties at LeRoi’s house, NY – working Bohemia –  Then earlier gloomy loft on Essex Street he used as studio – those days seeing a lot of Larry Rivers, I visited there & 1961 (?) in Paris was it saw him in Left Bank Hotel Studio – We talked and turned on, I dug his new candy bright color style enabling Poussin-esque space flat colors surface amorphism delineating 3-D figures, he influenced painter Robert Lavigne who had studio later downstairs Rivington Street where one day I wandered by and smoked and sat for portrait and discussed the difficulties & body-ravaging swamp of Junk scene – I thought him the most original visionary painter of his days, a first natural American psychedelic colorist.”

addenda/correction from Martha Henry – Thompson’s first show in his loft was 1960, alongside paintings by Peter Passuntino 

Neglected and later posthumously “re-discovered”, Thompson’s star has certainly shone in recent years.  The 1998 Whitney show was a breakthrough show (reviewed here by Roberta Smith for the New York Times)

Thelma Golden’s pioneering curatorial work – 

From 2018-19 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art  (drawing strongly from the Myron Kunin Collection):
See also their note – “The incredible forgotten life of painter Bob Thompson”.

From more recent times:

From July 2021 to January 2022  This House Is Mine curated by Diana Tuite, Katz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, opened at the Colby College Museum of Art in Maine

An examination of some of the themes explored in the exhibition can be found laid out  –  here

Nancy Kenney reviewed the show for The Art Newspaper
Billy Anania for Hyperallergic
Sebastian Smee  for The Washington Post

It traveled to first Chicago and then Atlanta, ending up in October of last year (on exhibit through to January 2023) at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

This House Is Mine –  (the show takes its name from “a diminutive but exquisite painting created by the artist in 1960. With this title, Thompson declared his ambition to synthesize a new visual language out of elements of historic European painting”)

It was, as the curators declared: “The first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years… (tracing) Thompson’s brief but prolific transatlantic career, examining his formal inventiveness and his engagement with universal themes of collectivity, bearing witness, struggle, and justice…bringing together paintings and works on paper from almost 50 public and private collections across the United States…(centering) Thompson’s work within expansive art historical narratives and ongoing dialogues about the politics of representation, charting his enduring influence.”

Here’s a panel discussion on Thompson that took place at the Hammer show

Amy Crawford reviews the Chicago show – here 
Felicia Feaster reviews the Atlanta show –  here 
Here’s Christopher Knight’s rave review in the LA Times  (calling it a “must-see show”)

Most recently (and currently) two New York shows – April 1 – May 26 at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery – Bob Thompson – Agony and Ecstasy.  and April 21- July 8 at David Zwirner, So Let Us All Be Citizens 

Jackson Arn, writes at length, earlier this month, in The New Yorker 

John Yau writes for Hyperallergic – here 

In October 2021 the New York Times convened a gathering of four artists,  Peter Doig, Rashid Johnson, Naudline Pierre and Henry Taylor,  to opine on the influence of Bob Thompson –  Read their observations – here

& here‘s his contemporary, the great Sonny Rollins remembering the great man

and a poem from Bob Thompson (yes, Thompson wrote poetry too!)

Poem by Bob Thompson

Remembering Bob Thompson

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