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Mungo Thomson’s wide-ranging multi-media work approaches mass culture and everyday perceptual experience through a lens of deep time and cosmic scale, implicating the spaces of production and exhibition in ever-widening extrapolations. He has convened an orchestral ensemble to perform a score transcribed from the chirping of crickets, persuaded museums to let their incoming mail pile up unopened in the galleries for the run of an exhibition, and replaced the coat-hangers in the Whitney Museum’s coat check with custom-made hangers modeled on orchestral triangles, transforming it into an enormous musical instrument.
Spanning his entire oeuvre, this first comprehensive monograph focuses in particular on the artist’s three main series that embody his exploration of popular culture and everyday objects to question what we most take for granted, or fail to notice. In the “TIME” series, person-sized silkscreened mirrors bearing the red border and logo of the 100-year-old international weekly news magazine, pair a precise historical moment with the viewer’s own reflection in the present. As a series, these works form their own archive, reflecting each other, and picturing the viewer within an infinity room of culture and politics, and media and design. The “Wall Calendar” series displays commercial calendar images as if held up to the sun, allowing the reverse side of the page to show through. Printed on both sides of the fabric and stretched over a lightbox, recto and verso are collaged together with light—the calendar grid of a single month is superimposed onto a photograph of a 40-million-year-old mountain, and the everyday minutiae of living is set into scale with geological time. These works consider geochronology from a precarious contemporary vantage, contrasting evocations of elevated consciousness with contemplations of extinction. Thomson’s “Snowman” is a series of trompe-l’oeil stacks of Amazon boxes and other online retail shipping cartons cast in solid patinated bronze. Both a droll contribution to the field of outdoor sculpture and a mineralogical transformation of the temporary and ephemeral into the permanent and geological, in 2020 the Snowman also became public art for a depopulated world.
Lavishly illustrated, the publication gathers together a general essay by art critic Tim Griffin, two contributions by French philosopher and writer Donatien Grau and American writer and curator Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, as well as an extensive interview between Thomson and fellow artist Laura Owens.
Born in 1969, based in Los Angeles, Mungo Thomson attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York (1994) and the Graduate Fine Art Program at UCLA (2000). Recent solo and group exhibitions have taken place at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museo Jumex, Mexico City; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; and High Line, New York.