MILDRED THOMPSON, “Magnetic Fields,” 1990

 

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS celebrated the birthday of Mildred Thompson (1936-2003) with the announcement of two acquisitions. Under-recognized in her lifetime, the Atlanta-based artist worked in abstraction, making paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. Thompson was featured prominently in “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” a group exhibition of 21 black female artists recently presented at NMWA. The show’s title was borrowed from a series of paintings the artist made in the 1990s.

On March 12, NMWA acquired a painting and a “wood picture” by Thompson. The museum’s Georgia committee purchased a “Magnetic Fields” painting with a primary color palette. The expressive, energetic composition is defined by kinetic bursts of red and blue darting across a bright yellow ground.

Camille Ann Brewer, curator of contemporary textile art at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, gifted an untitled circa 1970 sculptural assemblage work by Thompson. The artist was living in Germany in the 1960s and ’70s when she made the works with found wood segments.

As described by NMWA, the Magnetic Fields series “reflects Thompson’s quest to create a personal visual language for depicting phenomena and effects not visible to the naked eye. She studied, and had a longstanding interest in, quantum physics, cosmology and theosophy. Through her art, she sought to connect scientific knowledge and metaphysical philosophy.” Her interests, inspirations, and content were atypical, outside the standard expectations for art by African American artists and women artists.

The Magnetic Fields series “reflects Thompson’s quest to create a personal visual language for depicting phenomena and effects not visible to the naked eye. …Through her art, she sought to connect scientific knowledge and metaphysical philosophy.”

Today, those narrow expectations are largely lifted and Thompson has been the focus of renewed attention thanks to Donna Jackson, her partner, and estate curator Melissa Messina, who are committed to preserving and advancing her legacy.

“Mildred Thompson: Resonance, Selected Works from the 1990s” was presented at the SCAD Museum of Art in 2016. Organized in 2017 by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo., “Magnetic Fields” traveled to NMWA where it was on view through Jan. 21, 2018. In December, Galerie Lelong announced its representation of Thompson’s estate. At ADAA’s The Art Show fair (Feb. 28-March 4), the gallery mounted a solo exhibition of Thompson’s paintings and works on paper. “Mildred Thompson: Radiation Explorations and Magnetic Fields” is currently on view at the gallery through March 31.

In a brief New York Times review of the Galerie Lelong exhibition, Holland Carter wrote: “It’s taken six decades to have a first solo show here, but what a sparkler it is. …This is beautiful, upbeat work, backed up by an entire creative history yet to be fully explored.” CT

 

READ MORE about Mildred Thompson on her website

 

IMAGES: Top, MILDRED THOMPSON, Magnetic Fields, 1990 (oil on canvas, 62 x 48 inches). | Gift of the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Georgia Committee and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, © The Mildred Thompson Estate, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York; Above right, Photo of Mildred Thompson, Atlanta, Georgia, 1988 © Mildred Thompson Estate, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

 

BOOKSHELF
Documenting the exhibition, the catalog for “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today” features Mildred Thompson’s work on the cover. The volume is co-edited by Erin Dziedzic and Melissa Messina with contributions by Valerie Cassel Oliver and Lowery Stokes Sims.

 

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