Bob Thompson’s Fraught Dance with the Old Masters

Jackson Arn at The New Yorker:

There is no exact word for what Thompson does with the Old Masters. His paintings—the subject of “Bob Thompson: Agony & Ecstasy,” the unmissable show at Rosenfeld, and another, “Bob Thompson: So Let Us All Be Citizens,” at 52 Walker—contain hundreds of motifs snatched from the Western canon, wedged into dense compositions, and coated in bright colors. The results are too calm for parody and too self-secure for homage. Stanley Crouch thought that Thompson, a jazz fanatic, improvised on European art the way a saxophonist improvises on standards, but even that seems a notch too reverent. He doesn’t riff on masterpieces so much as rifle through them, grabbing a handful of Goya or Tintoretto as though reaching for the cadmium yellow. For “The Entombment” (1960), his painting of a hatted man tumbling off his horse, he seems to have taken the lifeless, drooping torso from El Greco’s “The Entombment of Christ” (which El Greco lifted from Michelangelo, but that’s another story) and cast it in a drama of his own making, so that every brushstroke whooshes toward the bottom like a waterfall.

more here.