About Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson returned to Fort Worth after a five-year hiatus from exhibiting in Texas. Thompson, Dean of Art at New York’s prestigious Alfred University, has since built a house and studio in Alfred, New York and worked on this series of work, which reflects the relative calm of his new surroundings. An avid trout fisherman, Richard Thompson is now in a personal paradise, where he is thirty minutes from trout fishing in any direction from his home. The sense of place is evident in his newest work. Thompson, a two-time Whitney Biennial participant, has traditionally included the character of his physical surroundings in his paintings. This exhibition, titled SHHHHH… …, be very quiet, seems to caution against frightening the fish or wildlife that live in the woods and waters surrounding the artist’s home.
The still of the woods and the serenity of living in a more rural setting have made Thompson more reflective of his life and appreciative of his surroundings. This body of work exemplifies Thompson’s new surroundings and this quiet temperment. Oils on canvas, large acrylic paintings on paper, pastel drawings and small sculptural paintings on three-dimensional vessels typifies his work.
This body of work is lean and slightly more abstract than previous work. In the large acrylic work “Spectrum Vessels,” Thompson surrounds a tall table with five delicately painted vessel shapes. The table is split horizontally by what could be interpreted as the horizon line, defining the darker foreground of the painting from the warm gray upper ground, possibly alluding to the warm gray sky of western New York State in the fall. Golden and reddish hued leaf shapes float within the entire picture plane, again alluding to the scene outside of his studio.
Thompson continues to use all of his familiar imagery, yet he now often delineates the vessels, trout, palettes, and tables within definite geometric shapes. Another large acrylic on paper, “Home Horizon”, contains a large amphora vessel with a large rainbow trout enclosed within a bright red waterscape on the left side of the painting. The vessel is outlined by two geometric box forms, adding a new format for the work. The right side of the painting contains a vessel upon a blue table pouring bright green water onto an artist’s palette. This painting seems to illustrate both the purity and pollution of different water sources in the area as well as the abundance of life that the palette (pond) contains. As Thompson attempts to quiet his paintings down, he really shows his stuff in “Flat Lake Horizon #1.” The various components in the painting–cattails in a vessel on a shelf, a clock on a table, the silhouette of a figure in a small boat seen at the horizon, and the reflection of the dark blue sky on the green water–are all painted in a flat manner. Only the large, dominant trout’s head rising out of the water to engulf a dragonfly is painted with definition of form, possibly a vague reference to a self-portrait of the artist. “Flat Lake Horizon #l” exemplifies the Richard Thompson vocabulary and his mastery of painting. It blatantly defies the viewer to connect all of the parts to every painting Thompson has created.
This body of work tends to be smaller in scale and a definite toning down of imagery. The series small acrylic paintings on paper titled “Vessel Studies” exemplifies Thompson’s format for other work. All but the basic compositional format is eliminated in this series and they are painted with limited color. Another example of Thompson’s painting tutorial is a series of small untitled acrylic on paper paintings rendered in black and white. The paintings contain all of his visual vocabulary, trout, trout flies, palettes, fisherman, insects, and vessels, yet they are spare. These exquisitely painted works exemplify his ability to compose and render his subjects with the precision of an artistic surgeon.
An important and widely recognized artist, Richard Thompson’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Gund Collection in Boston and the Goode Collection in Washington, D. C. Four of his large paintings grace the lobby of Frost Bank in downtown Fort Worth. Thompson’s work was recently included in Confluence: Art & the Trout Fly, an exhibition that traveled to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Prichard Gallery at the University of Idaho. Thompson’s work has also been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., the Palm Desert Museum in Palm Springs, California, and has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at many of Texas’ and the southwest’s museums.