Cheyney Thompson opens an exhibition of works at Ordet, Milan
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Cheyney Thompson opens an exhibition of works at Ordet, Milan
Cheyney Thompson, To be titled, 2020.

MILAN.- Cheyney Thompson’s new series of Displacement paintings posits each canvas’s ground as a touch-sensitive surface. The works adopt a uniform structure of five-millimeter square black marks painted in a gridded pattern atop a white ground. Before the paint is dry, Thompson deploys an assortment of custom silicone tools against the surface, forcing the wet squares out of place. He adds no new material, but rather subjects the existing marks to this process of reorganization. The resulting transformations appear as extensions of squares into lines, glyph-like forms, and sweeping, sinuous fields of paint. Each painting has become a record of the tools’ interaction with the surface: the stops and starts, the kinetic limits of Thompson’s body and the entropic movement of the order of painted squares into noise. But, they are also pictures, as this play of ruptures and conjured forms has been frozen into an unsettled pictorial field, still with the trappings of figure-ground, composition, and space.

For the exhibition at Ordet, Thompson has introduced four sweeping arcs of bright red, yellow, green, and blue that are sprayed onto the white ground. They appear as distinctly colored lights illuminating each painting, one arc per corner. Together, they suggest that each canvas is not an autonomous piece, but instead, an element in a larger set as their radii are designed by relating the internal dimensions of the painting with the architectural dimensions of the gallery space and the positions of the neighboring paintings. Thompson treats color as both a sensual material and an organizing strategy.

Thompson’s meditations on touch also impel the drawings included in the exhibition, which seek to understand the relation of touch to larger concepts of productivity. Taking as a starting point the concept of “takt time,” a manufacturing term that sets the rate and speed of physical production needed to satisfy demand for an item, Thompson constructed a drawing table that is embedded with a microcomputer and pressure-sensitive resistor to measure exactly 10 seconds of “touch-time” with the surface. While drawing has always been a recording procedure (observation, sketch, plan, diagram) these touch-sensitive drawings entail an additional record of the drawing procedure itself. For Thompson the drawing’s depiction is less important than how the meandering protocols of observation, note-taking, doodling and delineation appear under measure by the regular gate of the clock.

A work from the series Some Storage Devices (2019), also included in the exhibition, demonstrates the ways in which Thompson has sought to investigate how the protocols that inform the production, distribution, and exhibition of painting relate to complex systems we inhabit. The seven canvases housed within a custom storage device span fifteen years of the artist’s practice, including his series of Chronochrome paintings in which the time of the work’s production is mapped onto the canvas by coding color to correspond to the hours of the day; Quantity paintings, which constrain the amount of pigment or other material applied in relation to the canvas’s surface area; Stochastic paintings, in which a predetermined number of steps, generated by a random walk algorithm running inside a color space, are recorded on the paintings’ surface in uniform marks; Displacement paintings; and grayscale paintings of a detail of a work by Peter Paul Rubens. Together, these pieces represent Thompson’s interest in the adjacent systems that cohere around artworks. These interests extend to the relationships between the structures or constraints that Thompson imposes on his work and the potential for entropy as artworks are situated in and as fields of information.

Cheyney Thompson investigates the systems that inform the production, distribution, and exhibition of painting and the adjacent subjects that may cohere around artworks—mathematics, history, biology, and political economy. By imposing rigorous constraints on his painting practice, Thompson underlines the governing structures within which all contemporary art must unfold. In this corpus of work, the “artist” emerges less as a myth of the administered life than as a specter, felt or sensed as a body just outside the frame or an orienting bundle of intentions and intelligence that cuts a path through overlapping orders of abstraction.

Cheyney Thompson (b. 1975, Baton Rogue, Louisiana) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In 2017, Thompson’s work was the subject of an exhibition at The Brno House of Arts, Brno, Czechia, with Sam Lewitt. Other solo exhibitions include Cheyney Thompson The Completed Reference: Pedestals and Drunken Walks, Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany, 2012; Cheyney Thompson: metric, pedestal, landlord, cabengo, recit, curated by João Ribas, MIT Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2012. Selected group exhibitions include Low Form. Imaginaries and Visions in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, MAXXI, Rome, 2018; Invisible Adversaries: Marieluise Hessel Collection, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 2016, Money, Good and Evil. A Visual History of Economics, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany, 2016; A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions, SFMOMA, San Francisco, 2016; and Materials and Money and Crisis, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, 2013; and the 2008 Whitney Biennial, New York.

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