galerie frank elbaz

Mungo Thomson

OVERRIDE | A Billboard Project

August 28 - September 17, 2017

Chicago, IL, USA


Mungo Thomson, Negative Space, 2006-2017

OVERRIDE | A Billboard Project is a cutting edge citywide public art initiative, presented by EXPO CHICAGO and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Displayed throughout Chicago’s City Digital Network (CDN), the citywide exhibition will run from August 28–September 17, 2017 to align with the sixth annual exposition. 

Placing artwork within this public context and the broader presentation of billboard advertising, OVERRIDE takes its name from industry terminology referring to the continuation of an outdoor advertising program beyond a contracted period. Fully integrated into the language of advertising and local familiar signage, each of the works included within the OVERRIDE program present the opportunity for artists to intercept and push the boundaries of how visual culture is disseminated in our increasingly image-based environment. Selected from EXPO CHICAGO 2017 Exhibitors, the artists included each engage with the medium in a dynamic way, from existing projects that seamlessly extend toward a conceptual continuation of their current practice, to new works created specifically for this context.

Building upon the City of Chicago and DCASE’s longstanding commitment to public art, OVERRIDE provides EXPO CHICAGO a key opportunity beyond Navy Pier to showcase works by leading international artists in neighborhoods throughout the city.


Negative Space (2006–2017)
Courtesy of galerie frank elbaz, Paris, Dallas

Mungo Thomson’s Negative Space is a series of photographic murals of inverted astronomical imagery sourced from the Hubble Space Telescope photo archive. Thomson works with the Hubble archive in an ongoing way, generating a negative image every time the Hubble generates a positive one. He downloads the Hubble image (online, high-resolution and copyright-free) and inverts it: black becomes white, white becomes black, and all other colors are transformed into their complement. The images that result retain a sense of the cosmic, but they also resemble dust, smoke, veined marble, the interior of the body, and the oceanic. These images are then made into site-specific, wall-sized photographic murals for empty walls. Installed as a kind of institutional wallpaper, they embody the tension between background and foreground, visibility and invisibility that runs through all the artist’s work, while remaining strongly retinal and implicating their context.

Since 2006 Thomson has made Negative Space murals in private and public, temporary and permanent, at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, LAXART, Los Angeles, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Metro Pictures, New York, Art Basel, and many other galleries and museums, as well as for private collections, and as permanent public commissions for UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. Thomson is currently producing a permanent Negative Space installation for a new Metro station in downtown Los Angeles that is being built between the Broad Art Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.


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