ANNE THOMPSON | The Color-Word Value Index

June 24 - August 11, 2016 

Opening Reception: Opening Thursday, June 23, 6-9pm


NEW YORK – 57W57ARTS is pleased to announce The Color-Word Value Index, a solo exhibition by Anne Thompson on view in the Main Gallery, Waiting Room and Project Space. The installation—the first time a single artist has occupied all three venues—features dynamic works from the past eight years including needlepoint pieces, drawings, handmade books, wallpaper, and a video, all rooted within the parameters of her idiosyncratic system, or “Index." A poster announcement produced for the exhibition unfolds to reveal a poem by Mary Jo Bang and the following text by Dr. Alan Ravitz, the psychiatrist whose waiting room is part of the 57W57ARTS programming spaces.

While doing library research on color systems as grad student, Anne Thompson happened upon Colors and Their Character: A Psychological Study, by Benjamin Jan Kouwer, published in 1949 in the Netherlands—a chance discovery of an obscure work that, at the time, seemed insignificant but nonetheless interesting. She made some notes and years later began using Kouwer’s findings, which relate colors to actions and emotions, as the loose basis for her Color-Word Value Index, an eccentric platform designed to generate interlocking bodies of work in different mediums.

Thompson describes the Index as "a taxonomy of colors, words, symbols, and numbers based on color theory in psychology, mysticism, and early modernism. … All products imagine a disciple-like adherence to the properties of the Index—44 word pairings; 10 colors; 5 suits; values of positive, negative, and neutral; and a relativism that evokes chance and reversals such as mirroring, flipping, and doubling.” The results encompass traditions of fine art and domestic craft associated with belief and belonging: a person who “follows” the Color-Word Value Index, by the artist’s logic, naturally would have a set of needlepoint-upholstered color-wheel chairs.

In aggregate, the Color-Word Value Index becomes both psychological and spiritual. If you allow it to wash over you, it resonates with something that stubbornly resists definition. Thompson’s highly singular mix of colors, words, and values—as well as her modes of organizing and presenting them—may appear arbitrary but the evoked experience is distinct. It is highly personalized and also entirely non-categorical, devoid of verbal descriptors despite its reliance on language.

There is a real but invisible world that each of us uniquely inhabits. Its characteristics are based mostly on chance—genetic endowment; the physical and social circumstances of daily life; history, both personal and cultural; and of course, good or bad luck. When we encounter something that allows us to make contact with that invisible world, the result is a psycho-aesthetic experience. Thompson’s Index, with its multitude of complex color-word-value relationships, manifests a way of organizing and imagining that invisible world.

ANNE THOMPSON is an artist whose practice includes writing and curating. This is her third solo exhibition in New York. She is the founder of the I-70 Sign Show, a public-art project that started on Missouri interstate billboards and “travels” this fall to Ohio I-71 for a museum collaboration tied to the presidential election season. This summer, she will be artist-in-resident at Epicenter, a community design center in Green River, Utah. Previous awards include fellowships at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, at the University of Missouri, and the Women’s Studio Workshop, in Rosendale, NY, as well as a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) grant to research color theory at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin. Her work is in public collections including the Yale Art Gallery, the New York Public Library, the Harvard Fine Arts Library, and the Library of Congress. Before receiving her MFA (Yale 2002), Thompson was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. She currently lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband and daughter.