Cheyney Thompson (b.1975, Baton Rouge, Louisiana) creates multi-colored, grid-based paintings by applying specific rules or systems to his work. He is part of a group of artists who use external factors to shape their art and explores production, labor, and distribution systems in the art world through complex data and formulas.
One example of such a method is the ‘Chronochromes’ series (2009–2011), based on a color system developed by Albert H Munsell that defines colors by hue, value, and chroma. The paintings change in lightness and saturation based on the time of day and month, revealing the artist’s labor up close.
Cheyney Thompson, Chronochrome set 1, 2010 (c) Phillips
In his 2012 exhibition Sometimes Some Pictures Somewhere at Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, Thompson displayed large-scale, expressive, abstract paintings that differed from his previous work. However, the focus on systems remained, as he conceptualized the gallery as a management operation rather than an exhibition space, highlighting the commercial aspects of contemporary art.
Thompson’s later ‘Quantity Paintings’ (2015–2017) series used monochromatic canvases and were based on the random walk algorithm, which explains fluctuations in stock markets and other systems. The algorithm helped divide the pigment volume proportionally to the canvas, aiming for quick coverage.
In a 2017 exhibition at Andrew Kreps Gallery, Thompson challenged traditional art distribution by installing a biometric punch clock that determined a new arrangement for the ‘Quantity Paintings’ each day, requiring gallery staff to rehang the paintings.
Somewhere Some Pictures Sometimes, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
September 7 – October 21, 2017
Cheyney Thompson’s “Displacement” paintings treat each canvas as a sensitive surface that responds to touch. The artworks have a consistent design of small black squares on a white background, arranged in a grid. While the paint is still wet, Thompson uses special silicone tools to move the squares out of their original positions. He doesn’t add anything new but simply rearranges the existing marks.
As a result, the squares transform into lines, unique shapes, and flowing fields of paint. Each painting captures the interactions between the tools and the surface, including Thompson’s physical movements and the shift from orderly squares to a more chaotic pattern. However, these paintings also maintain aspects of traditional art, such as figure-ground relationships, composition, and space, creating an interesting balance between order and disorder.
Cheyney Thompson has created a series of new paintings called Several Bellonas. Each painting is based on a detail from a larger artwork by Peter Paul Rubens in the Louvre, the Apotheosis of Henry IV and the Proclamation of the Regency of Marie de Medici (1625). Instead of simply copying the original, Thompson breaks it down into parts and then rebuilds it, like a radiographic scan. He uses layers of black, cyan, magenta, and yellow to mimic the printing process. This allows for differences and deviations to emerge across the series.
Thompson was inspired by Paul Cézanne’s drawings of Rubens’ Bellona, which he drew ten times during his life. These drawings became a reference point for Thompson, who started working on a project in 2005 with artists Sam Lewitt and Gareth James. They explored drawing, museums, motifs, and shifts in image-making technologies.
Cheyney Thompson, Several Bellonas, Lisson Gallery New York, 10 November 2022 – 13 January 2023. Image by Art Axcess
Cheyney Thompson was born in 1975 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and currently lives and works in New York. He received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1997.
In 2022, Cheyney Thompson’s Dislpacement paintings were
the subject of his exhibition, Several Bellonas / Intervals and Displacements, a dual part presentation with Andrew Kreps Gallery and Lisson Gallery. His work was recently included in ‘Low Form. Imaginaries and Visions in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’ at MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2019) and in ‘Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965–2018’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (2019). Thompson’s work was the subject of an exhibition with Sam Lewitt at The Brno House of Arts, Brno, Czechia (2017).
Other solo exhibitions include ‘Cheyney Thompson The Completed Reference: Pedestals and Drunken Walks’, at Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2012); and ‘Cheyney Thompson: metric, pedestal, landlord, cabengo, recit’, at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, USA (2012).
Select group exhibitions
‘Invisible Adversaries: Marieluise Hessel Collection’, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA (2016); ‘Money, Good and Evil. A Visual History of Economics’, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, Germany (2016); ‘A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions’, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA (2016); ’Materials and Money and Crisis’, Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria (2013); and the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (2008), among others.
Thompson’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA.