Born 1975 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; lives in New York, New York
From the brushstroke, minutely controlled, to the expansive market context in which artworks are disseminated, Cheyney Thompson’s paintings, photographs, and installations investigate the contemporary landscape of invention and distribution. His 2006–07 show at Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York offered a systematic exploration of this network. Entitled Quelques Aspects de l’Art Bourgeois: La Non-Intervention (Certain Aspects of Bourgeois Art: Non-Intervention), Thompson’s installation comprised multiple parts: a series of twenty-five color offset lithographs depicting the gallery’s art storage bay, clustered in five quintets; four large abstract grayscale oil paintings derived from blurred photocopies; and eight lightweight folding tables on which were displayed sixteen imageless photographic prints progressing from white to black. A viewer following the diagonal path of the tables would traverse the gallery to be led to the storage bay pictured in the lithographs, completing the narrative circuit.
Thompson’s works commonly employ these tables as pedestals or neutral presentational devices, as in Table of Blood and Guts (2002) and Table Displaying Gifts from the Landlord and Working Papers (2006). This efficiently mutable form suggests a relation to the portable economy of the street even as it serves as an organizing frame for the objects it shows off. Questioning protocols of exhibition as much as techniques of production and their contingent modes of reception in the space of the gallery, Thompson assumes the history, practice, and circulation of painting as his subject.
Thompson’s strategy of flagging the conventions of display was also evident in an earlier exhibition at Andrew Kreps, 1998 (2004). There he thwarted rather than abetted them, however: Thompson hung more than 130 trompe l’oeil paintings of bricks, 2x4 wooden planks, and other building supplies Salon-style in a room, anchored by a sandbag-and-faux-wood blockade. Barricade Blocking the Position for an Ideal Point of View (2004) impeded viewing the installation from the “best” perspective—where the multiple vanishing points converged—undermining the ostensible contract between viewer and work. This early work’s active impediment of a unified spectatorial vantage point has led the artist to investigate, in his words, “a variegated relationship between painting—a practice whose ossified discursive and speculative value I want to mark with its various economic and technical support systems—and the contradictions of discursive engagements that subsist largely outside the site of display, but which are value-producing sites nonetheless.” Most recently, Thompson has comaintained a space on Ludlow Street in New York to be used for panel discussions, lectures, exhibitions, and as the editorial center for Scorched Earth, a magazine he edits with artists Gareth James and Sam Lewitt. Thompson’s makeshift architecture, multipurposed storefronts, and nomadic tables alike attest to his interest in provisional—but no less real—sites of crisis and contestation. SUZANNE HUDSON
Cheyney Thompson, Sets of Color from Robho to Storage, 2006 (detail). Twenty-five offset lithographs, 58 x 42 in. (147.3 x 106.7 cm) each, overall dimensions variable. Private collection