Mildred Thompson's decades-long exploration into abstraction was driven by a keen interest in physics and astronomy, in which she used art to visualise scientific elements and systems that are invisible to the naked eye.Read More
Thompson was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Her art education began at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she received her BA in 1957. Both during and after her degree, she attended several summer art programmes and residencies, including the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and The Brooklyn Museum School, finishing at the Art Academy of Hamburg in 1961.
Spanning four decades, Thompson's practice encompassed painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and photography.
Her interest in physics and astronomy drove her to explore and visualise scientific elements and systems that are invisible to the naked eye. The result was a portfolio of abstract works composed of energetic marks and complex compositions, absorbing the viewer into a unique vortex of colour and shape.
In the early 1990s, Thompson embarked on one of her most renowned series of works. Titled 'Magnetic Fields', the group of paintings share a pulsating energy and rich colour combinations of yellow, blue, and red hues, guided by Thompson's deep knowledge of colour theory.
Exemplifying the artist's unique approach to abstraction, the works in this series find themselves in the collections of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., among others.
When not in the studio, Thompson also pursued writing, poetry, and music. Between 1989 and 1997, she was Associate Editor for ART PAPERS. She also often performed in a blues band named WedoBLUES alongside her partner Donna Jackson.
The estate of Mildred Thompson is represented by Galerie Lelong & Co.
For their Frieze Los Angeles 2022 presentation, Galerie Lelong & Co. included Thompson's 1991 work, Hysteresis IX—a work spotlighted by Ocula Advisory.
Speaking on the work, Ocula Advisory remarked, 'The vibrant strokes in Hysteresis IX appear to hover above fine dashes of cream-coloured pastel resembling wood grain. Wood was a key source of exploration for the artist, whose "Wood Pictures" were made up of stacked, variously sized pieces of material, allowing her to develop a new language of abstraction.'
Mildred Thompson participated in both the 1992 Dakar Biennale in Senegal and more recently the 2018 Berlin Biennale.
Thompson was the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions in U.S. institutions, including solo shows at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta in 2019 and at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2018.
Thompson's work has also featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Goethe Institut, Atlanta; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; Harvard University, Cambridge; Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville; Agnes Scott College, Atlanta; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and The Studio Museum, Harlem, among others.
Thompson's work is held in the permanent collections of major institutions around the globe, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and the Hamburg Museum, among others.
Thompson's website can be found here.
Annabel Downes | Ocula | 2022