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In partnership with the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, Black Moon Trio curates a program celebrating the art and legacy of artist Bob Thompson. The program highlights similar inspirations of Thompson’s own work including musical representations of other visual artists such as Francisco de Goya, music influenced by New York City jazz clubs, and works by other artists of color.


Black Moon Trio collaborates with Nicole Bond, Jason Pallas and other members of the Smart Museum team to bring this interdisciplinary experience to life in a relevant, bespoke way for patrons and concert-goers alike.


75 minutes

Billy Strayhorn: Suite for the Duo

II. ​​Freely; Mournfully

Daniel Schnyder: Walden - Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano


Daniel Bernard Roumain: Filter 


Nina Simone, arr. Nelson: Blackbird


Jeff Scott: Un Abrazo para Sharon


David Baker: Jazz Suite for Violin and Piano

II. Harlem, Saturday Night

George Butcher & Julius Watkins, arr. Vigil: Linda Delia


Leo Brouwer: Pictures at Another Exhibition

​Pop Construction (Robert Rauschenberg)

Bob Thompson

“I paint many paintings that tell me slowly that I have something inside of me that is just bursting, twisting, sticking, spilling over to get out. Out into souls and mouths and eyes that have never seen before.”

Robert Louis (Bob) Thompson briefly studied medicine at Boston University before enrolling in the studio program at the University of Louisville, which had desegregated in 1951. As an art student, Thompson explored the languages of totemic abstraction then in vogue and developed an extraordinary proficiency in academic drawing. He spent the summer of 1958 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he continued his training at the Seong Moy School of Painting and Graphic Arts and forged valuable friendships. Thompson also encountered the work of the recently deceased German émigré artist Jan Müller (1922–1958), whose figurative style pointed him toward new expressive possibilities.

Thompson soon settled in New York City, where he joined fellow artists Allan Kaprow and Red Grooms in some of their first so-called “Happenings,” multimedia performance events. A devotee of jazz, Thompson frequented downtown clubs such as Slugs’ Saloon and the Five Spot Café, where legendary performers including Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Charlie Haden played. These musicians materialize in many of Thompson’s paintings and drawings including Ornette (Birmingham Museum of Art, 1960–61) and Garden of Music (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 1960). This pivotal period was marked by Thompson’s first solo New York City exhibition, and within the next few years his work entered some of the preeminent modern art collections in the United States.

In 1961, Thompson and his wife, Carol, made their first trip to Europe together, spending time in London and Paris and eventually settling in Ibiza. Thompson was able to fully immerse himself in the traditions that formed the core of his practice. While in Spain, he deepened his study of Francisco de Goya (1746­–1828), and canvases such as Untitled (Colby College Museum of Art, 1962) demonstrate his heady dialogue with Los Caprichos, the Spanish artist’s mordantly satirical print series. On a second trip to Europe, the couple settled in Rome, where Thompson died tragically on May 30, 1966, of complications following gallbladder surgery.

Memorial exhibitions at the New School for Social Research (1969) and the Speed Art Museum (1971) celebrated his life and career. In 1998, Thelma Golden and Judith Wilson mounted a foundational scholarly retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art. More recently, paintings by Thompson have featured in group exhibitions such as Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties; The Color Line: African-American Artists and Segregation; and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. The Estate of Bob Thompson is represented by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is a site for rigorous inquiry and exchange that encourages the examination of complex issues through the lens of art objects and artistic practice. Through strong community and scholarly partnerships, the Museum incorporates diverse ideas, identities, and experiences into its exhibitions and collections, academic inquiry, and public programming. The Smart first opened in 1974.

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