New York

Bob Thompson

Martha Jackson Gallery

Not-so-naive mythologies are what Bob Thompson presents in his new paintings at Martha Jackson’s. He is still using his tropical hot color in rigidly localized areas, fitting together the compositions like those jig-saw puzzles that have some pieces in recognizable shapes. In his previous shows, large paintings didn’t quite make it because the scale showed up serious weaknesses in drawing. The present group of pictures sticks to a more manageable format, and the resulting gain in both clarity of form and spatial construction raises Thompson’s achievements well above his previous exposures.

The busyness and abandon of the “staffage” of Thompson’s subjects invite interpretation of their activity as allegories. Titles like Bacchanal, and Death of the Infant of Bethel lead further in this direction. The innocent frenzy displayed everywhere is pure “luxe et volupté,” but no “calme.” Meatily painted, the surfaces churn along with the action and are handled with some variety, particularly in landscape passages. Thompson’s consistency and single-mindedness aren’t up to those of, say Jan Muller, whom he occasionally resembles through inadvertence, but the drive is there, and apparently he produces easily. His earlier shows had the air of somewhat premature showings and so it is gratifying to observe him now in much greater control of his manifest gifts.

Dennis Adrian