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Bob Thompson: Heroes, Martyrs, and Spectres

September 11 – November 8, 1997


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Bob Thompson: Heroes, Martyrs, & Spectres explores the visionary and expressionist works of Bob Thompson. The exhibition features several of Thompson’s major paintings including Bird Party, The Tree, The Struggle, and Satyr and Maiden, as well as a selection of drawings.

For Bob Thompson, painting was a catharsis. He passionately poured his soul into often autobiographical and allegorical expressions which weave figures and landscapes into a tapestry of color. On the surface, Thompson’s expressionist paintings appear irreverent, but they are deeply rooted in tradition. Thompson actively appropriated from masters including Goya, Poussin, and Piero della Francesca, adopting their compositions and classical subjects as the basis for his works. By combining his own visionary style of self-expression with tradition, Thompson succeeded in producing distinctive works which stand very much alone in twentieth-century art.

Thompson’s works completed between 1958 and 1966 reflect the vitality, spirit and tragedy of his short life. As he became more involved in the avant-garde and Beat culture of musicians, writers, and artists, the muted and subdued figurative compositions of the late 1950s gave way to dynamic and hotly colored images of the 1960s. By the early 1960s, Thompson achieved great recognition and success which was unparalleled for most young artists and certainly for African-American artists of the era.

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Estate of Bob Thompson.