Modernist all-over compositions invoke everything from creation to string theory in the works on view in “Creating Matter: The Prints of Mildred Thompson.” Despite the small space, the exhibition is successful in suggesting process. Three black-and-white prints and one large color print, all from the 1999 “Caversham” series, allow one to watch the artist work through different ways of composing dynamic force from an undulating beam of energy and its offshoots. A series of five 1989 etchings entitled “The First Mystery,” “The Second Mystery,” etc., create different scenes of an orbital sun and horizon line, stable aspects in otherwise chaotic, mottled space. Is this a deluge, a nuclear blast, or the morning after the apocalypse pictured? These works get at the heart of Thompson’s mystery—how to apply a centuries-old technique and new scientific possibilities to an eternal subject: the substance of the world.
Fifteen of the eighteen prints on view are back-and-white, forcefully conveying the frenetic energy of the compositions as well as the energy of the artist’s incisions. Rather than feeling hemmed in by the hectic lines and scratches, an elegant use of white space in the compositions allows the paper to stand forth like a peaceful absence of matter, especially in works like Mulbris, “Death and Orgasm” series (1991) whose upper third is unmarked except by a graceful curved indention in the paper. Almost unexpectedly, I found the exhibition of the deceased American artist’s late prints tucked into a small room off the main Greek and Roman art galleries, offering a modern counter-point to the permanent collection.
On view at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta through May 17.