Mungo Thomson

Negative Space (STScl-PRC2003-24)



Mungo Thomson is an artist who explores existing assumptions, context, reversal and background – what is happening behind the action. He has been called an archivist of the in-between. Born in Woodside, CA, Thomson’s own aesthetic and intellectual background includes California “light and space” and conceptual art influences, which he has carried forward into the media-saturated world of today, adapting and transforming these ideas with a dry and disciplined wit. He has worked across mediums to produce such things as Royal Leerdam Crystal Beer Bottle Candle Holders, 2001, The American Desert (for Chuck Jones), 2002 (a film comprising the empty landscapes of Road Runner cartoons), Silent Film of a Tree Falling in the Forest, 2006, Skyspace Bouncehouse, 2007 (after Jim Turrell), Coat Check Chimes, 2008, Einstein #1, 2008 (a full color comic book), and Photoshop Palette Rug, 2009. In b/w, 2008, he produced a vinyl LP with (on the B side) the sounds of whales sped up 16 times, and (on the W side) the sounds of hummingbirds slowed by the same increment.

Thomson was drawn to the Diller atrium wall because of its immense size, its multiple vantage points from close up to far away (including the street below), and its extension through several floors. The empty white space of this wall functions as a backdrop for the various elements of the atrium in this Rafael Viñoly designed building. Into this empty backdrop Thomson has inserted the emptiness of space: an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (from a copyright free image databank) which has been inverted to negative, so that the blackness of outer space becomes the whiteness of architectural empty space, and so the perceived colors of the spiral galaxy NGC 3370 recorded by Hubble are transformed to complementary earth tones and violet hues, giving them an entirely different range of associations. The image resolves and sharpens when seen from a distance, then dissolves into shadowy fragments when walking alongside it.