Mildred Thompson: Against the Grain at New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), through August 31st, 2019

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) presents Mildred Thompson: Against the Grain marking the first solo museum presentation of the experimental wood works of the American artist Mildred Thompson (1936-2003) in more than thirty years. The exhibition features three rare early Wood Pictures recently acquired by NOMA for its permanent collection alongside a selection of Wood Pictures and related prints from the Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co, New York that reflect Thompson’s deep commitment to the language of abstraction. 

An accomplished painter, sculptor, writer and musician, Thompson began creating her wood assemblages, which she called Wood Pictures, while living in Germany in the early 1960s. Thompson’s abstract work in wood went against the grain of the more representational and overtly political art of her time to offer more subtle reflections on history, memory and place. These sculptural assemblages—which represent a unique contribution to the art of this period—combine found and manipulated wood segments into sophisticated, expressive compositions that blend the traditional categories of painting, sculpture and collage. Often created from wood sourced in the forests of rural Germany, Thompson explored the material’s natural variations to create sensitive juxtapositions of texture, color and form.” — NOMA

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1966, Found wood and acrylic paint, 39 3/8 x 27 1/8 x 2 3/8 inches, New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Leah Chase Fund, 2016.49, Photography by Roman Alokhin, courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1966, Found wood and acrylic paint, 25 ½ x 38 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches, New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Leah Chase Fund, 2016.50, Photography by Roman Alokhin, courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1967, Wood, paint, nails, 16 ¼ x 24 ¾ x 4 ¼ inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1971-72, Wood, nails, 34 13/16 x 40 13/16 x 2 3/8 inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1971-72, Wood, nails paint, 39 x 33 x ¾ inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Wood Picture, c. 1972, Found wood and acrylic paint, 48 ¾ x 36 x 2 ½ inches, New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Leah Chase Fund, 2016.51, Photography by Roman Alokhin, courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Untitled (No #II), 1973, Silkscreen on paper, 24 1/8 x 16 7/8 inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Untitled (No #III), 1973, Silkscreen on paper, 24 1/8 x 16 7/8 inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Untitled (No #IV), 1973, Silkscreen on paper, 24 1/8 x 16 7/8 inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Mildred Thompson, Untitled (No #VIII), 1973, Silkscreen on paper, 24 1/8 x 16 7/8 inches, Courtesy The Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

Poster for Allegro in Space: Mildred Thompson, Harvard University, February 25-May 11, 1977, Photography: Karl Peters, Mildred Thompson papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, Emory University, Series 8, OP 8, © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

“Made during her self-imposed exile in Europe, Thompson’s Wood Pictures are only recently being rediscovered and presented in the United States,” said Susan Taylor, NOMA’s Montine McDaniel Freeman Director. “NOMA is delighted to feature works by Thompson acquired in 2016, reflecting the museum’s commitment to highlighting on under-recognized artistic voices from the American South.”

The exhibition is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art through the generous support of Galerie Lelong & Co, New York and is co-curated by Katie Pfohl, NOMA’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Melissa Messina, Curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate. 

Images courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art.