Making Time: Mildred Thompson’s Magnetic Fields

Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields, installation detail, 1991, oil on canvas, triptych, 70.5 x 150 inches [photo: Caroline Philippone; courtesy of The Estate of Mildred Thompson and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York]

Color, line, form move toward an undefined but perceived center—by moving out of it. Density builds, decimates, then replenishes. There’s a knot threading.

Ten feet? Twenty feet? The implication is forever. Blue anchors and guides the eye. The yellow is a blanket. It is the proper height, density, and protrusion in relation to the floor. In relation to the ceiling. In relation to the body. In relation to space. It floats. It sings. It stills—although it won’t stop moving. The blue is nearly sublimated, though I see it threading through. Is there a barrier hidden? One may not want to evoke volatility. Or ruse.

The painting expands. It contracts. It’s breathing. The lower right side of the painting looks edible, looks, specifically, like I can eat it. Here’s a flaunting of Wayne Thiebaud. There’s a shadow visible along the bottom of the painting—otherwise one might think it recessed into the wall. The image feels apportioned. Dissevered. As if I’m only getting a glimpse of something. The layering of color and line gives the impression of the minutiae of an idea and the audacity of one grand statement. The painting is immersive. Subversive. It’s disarming. Grind these colors to a pulp. Put them out in the sun (or moon) for 800 days and you get Rothko. It’s too easy to say that Thompson’s painting dazzles.

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