The news cycle of last year put a damper on art-world activity, but Brandon Thompson hasn’t been paying attention to that narrative.
The Cedar Hill-based artist finished off the second half of 2020 with a solo exhibition in Cincinnati’s BasketShop Gallery, followed by another at Ro2 Art in the Cedars. In the past two years, Thompson has also shown work in Houston and San Francisco and landed a coveted spot in New American Paintings.
Titled “Hard Work, No Play,” the show at Ro2 is on view through Jan. 30. In terms of a directly painterly manifestation that isn’t weighed down by conceptual mission creep, Thompson’s show may remind viewers of what drew them to art in the first place. The work is direct and eschews the riddling nature so common in contemporary art.
“Hard Work, No Play” is another step in the evolution of Thompson’s focus on his southern Dallas County roots. He adds a mythology to everyday mundanity, with paintings that focus on front-yard scenes, lottery tickets and the universal burden of being a productive cog of society.
Thompson fills in the blanks of childhood with literal depictions of a parent’s words in works such as Momma Said Don’t Leave Out the House Unless You Got Jesus With You. He subtly dots his works with religious themes, including an update on the Madonna figure called Ladonna and Child.
Color-forward strokes and found materials fill the room, which seems brighter than usual in the southern shadow of downtown. The artist cites Clementine Hunter and Kerry James Marshall as influences.
Thompson’s style also shares spiritual traces of the figurative touches of Raymond Pettibon’s use of color or the directly communicative reliefs by artists such as Leroy Almon or Herbert Singleton. As for 2021, Thompson is looking to continue his cluttered trajectory, seeking nothing other than to “pretty much continue to get better at painting.”