• Steven Thompson at English Kills

    Date posted: August 4, 2011 Author: jolanta

    Steven Thompson’s recent solo show at English Kills gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, was awesome in the true sense of the word. It was thought-provoking, wholly uncontrived, and yet drenched in local Zeitgeist.
    The exhibition revolved around a collection of original and approximate materials, which are the cornerstone of Thompson’s practice. Thompson’s approximates are fictional versions of the rare materials (such as cork bark, Baltic amber or ebony) that are used to craft expensive luxury items. They mimic the aesthetic qualities of the original materials, but strip them of their elitist connotations. The goal is not deceit but democratization.

    “This meticulous arrangement infuses the material world with a sense of mystery and potentiality.”

     

    Stephen Thompson, Nomadic Desk, 2011. Installation View. Courtesy of English Kills Gallery.

    Steven Thompson at English Kills

    Claudia Eve Beauchesne

    Steven Thompson’s recent solo show at English Kills gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, was awesome in the true sense of the word. It was thought-provoking, wholly uncontrived, and yet drenched in local Zeitgeist.

    The exhibition revolved around a collection of original and approximate materials, which are the cornerstone of Thompson’s practice. Thompson’s approximates are fictional versions of the rare materials (such as cork bark, Baltic amber or ebony) that are used to craft expensive luxury items. They mimic the aesthetic qualities of the original materials, but strip them of their elitist connotations. The goal is not deceit but democratization.

    On Thompson’s Nomadic Desk (an ongoing collaboration with the Green and Bold cooperative), real and fictional specimens from the vegetal, mineral and animal realms were laid out like the contents of a thoroughly curated wunderkammer. There were symbols of vanitas reminiscent of traditional Dutch still-lifes, esoteric talismans, and several small, handcrafted amulets. Bits of Mylar and touches of fluorescent paint hinted at a party.

    This meticulous arrangement infuses the material world with a sense of mystery and potentiality. Thompson’s handcrafted objects appear to serve important ritualistic functions, but some of them also look like absurdly impractical office supplies. They are artifacts from a universe that seems a lot like ours in that it involves natural phenomena, mortality, and the need for furniture, but in which the purpose of those strange items is perfectly obvious.

    Thompson, perhaps unintentionally, taps into a neo-bohemian style that has permeated fashion, design and photography for the last few years: the idea that a meticulous combination of the natural (fur, feathers, crystals) and the artificial (fluorescent colors, geometric shapes) exudes youthful energy, emotional freedom and creativity. Luckily, Thompson goes beyond mere formalism. His work is both intellectually and emotionally rewarding, and his aesthetic decisions are rooted in sound egalitarian values. His approximates are the real thing.

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