Against the Grain marks the first solo museum presentation of the experimental wood works of the American artist Mildred Thompson (1936-2003) in more than thirty years. An accomplished painter, sculptor, writer and musician, Thompson began creating her wood assemblages, which she called wood pictures, while living in Germany in the early 1960s.

Thompson’s abstract work in wood went against the grain of the more representational and overtly political art of her time to offer more subtle reflections on history, memory and place. These sculptural assemblages—which represent a unique contribution to the art of this period—combine found and manipulated wood segments into sophisticated, expressive compositions that are located between painting, sculpture and collage. Often created from wood sourced in the forests of rural Germany, Thompson explored the material’s natural variations to create sensitive juxtapositions of texture, color and form.

Made during the artist’s self-imposed exile in Europe, Thompson’s wood pictures are only recently being rediscovered and presented in the United States. This exhibition includes three rare early wood pictures recently acquired by NOMA for its permanent collection alongside a selection of wood pictures and related prints from the Mildred Thompson Estate and Galerie Lelong & Co, New York that reflect Thompson’s first mature works of non-representational art.

This exhibition is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art through the generous support of Galerie Lelong & Co, New York and is co-curated by Katie Pfohl, NOMA’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Melissa Messina, Curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate.