The Still House Group Cools Down With ‘Augustus Thompson: Bedroom Music’

Installation view of "Bedroom Music"
Installation view of “Bedroom Music.” (Courtesy The Still House Group.)

A sense of calm hung in the atmosphere at the Red Hook studio of the Still House Group during the opening of “Bedroom Music,” a show of works by artist-in-residence, Augustus Thompson. Soporific music rang from a large Tascam tape player connected to a speaker that spewed wires across the cardboard covered floor. Unassuming canvases about the size of a piece of paper dotted the whitewashed walls. Each canvas hosts a different arrangement of circles, the little endless loops repeated over and over, while the music played in the background.

“The music and the work came from the same place,” Mr. Thompson said. “I made all the music and played it at the same time as I made the work.” The meditative rhythm of the same shape again and again soothed and the music shrouded the atmosphere with cool serenity.

“Even though I wasn’t calm myself this summer when I made the work, this show is very Zen,” he said.

Thompson repeats the same shape again and again, yet differently each time. On some canvases blue circles sink into dark backgrounds. On another, the slivered edge of a circle stands out, white against a black background. A light red circle creates a soft mark on a darker red background. The circles are rife with purposeful imperfections. In places, harsh lines chop the shapes severely into awkward half-circles and in other instances, the shapes’ edges crumble away. All these subtle differences in the same shape repeated again and again imply that there is a code to be deciphered.

“Someone said it reminded them of the moon,” he shrugged. “I don’t know.”

When Mr. Thompson graduated from college, he began making watercolors, as watercolors were available to him. “I actually stole the paper,” he admitted. The works in Bedroom Music depart from his figurative, expressive, colorful, and energetic watercolors with palliating purity. For Instance: Thompson made the round shape using a can of beans.

“I used a can of beans, because they were what I was eating a lot of in L.A.,” he said. “A can of beans felt honest to me.”

He made the circle works not at Still House, but on Long Island, where the surrounding nature inspired him.

Beside the main Still House hub is a long rectangular room that houses the artists’ studios, all of them lined up like horses’ stables. The artists covered their studios with a cream cloth for the night, blocking out the creative energy that usually buzzed through the space. Only Mr. Thompson’s paintings made at the studio hung on one of the smaller walls at the end of the room. Most people gathered around sofas and armchairs near the window, smoking and sipping beers. Five prints showed the date of the opening, September 13th.

“The September 13th pieces were made because the only thing I knew for sure was the date,” he said.

Thompson printed the five canvases in five different colors and each contains the word “September” between two long rectangular shapes— given the month, one could not help but think of the Twin Towers. The canvases all face different directions, except for the yellow and black canvases, which lean in the same direction towards the floor, suggesting the toppling towers.

Even after a crazy dash from Brooklyn to the West Village, the mellow atmosphere of the opening carried over to the after party on the rooftop of the Jane Hotel. The soundtrack then was anything but mellow, but still, everything was strangely sedate. The Still House Group Cools Down With ‘Augustus Thompson: Bedroom Music’