Stephen Tompkins
, United States
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Contact details
Tel: 415 902-8877
Brief Summary
"Daydreams and nightmares seem to inform Stephen Tompkins' work equally. One addictively absorbing example is GummyMorph, a compendium of lugubrious shape-shifting goblins and tumescent worms that inflate, bloat, pop, reconfigure, melt and sway to a mesmerizing percussive soundtrack. Domesticated Celestial Bestiary (this animation opens with a gong as a house decants an unlikely menagerie of creatures before promptly deliquescing), is another key example of Tompkins' associative process which playfully sutures the sublime and the ridiculous." - Robin Clark, PhD, MCASD (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego) for the San Diego Art Prize 2010 nomination

"Tompkins’ work is almost like as if the entire Dr. Seuss series of children books (not as if that series wasn’t bizarre enough) went on a 14 day LSD binge with all the other necessary drug accoutrements like in “Fear and Loathing Las Vegas“…pure chaotic beauty." - Empty Kingdom

"Just as an LSD stamp distorts our vision , the paintings of Stephen Tompkins reform our perception. Continuously changing from background to foreground, we are following lines and have been trapped trying to find a figurative form or an organized chaos, we are caught red-handed trying to find the beginning or the end. Stephen Tompkins multilayered visions experiences with the abundance of informations and the power of chance . His anti-natural cartoon forms seem suddenly organic. Well known strokes of our childhood are losing their original forms, abandoned in their transparencies, they build a space of permanent metaphors suggesting the ugliness of truth. The amount of unfinished bodies sporadically crossed by precedent or future layers are vanishing the figurative into abstract. Those humorous see-throughs are far of just satisfying some esthetic purpose, they succeed reminding us to the vulnerability of humanity and the fragile aspect of beauty. Stephen Tompkins has reached the point where he redefines the difference between a painting which is directly self displaying or the one doing it through illustration." - Jaybo AKA Monk, Artist, I Wish U Sun

Hilger Contemporary
Galerie Ernst Hilger
SMART (DaimlerChrysler)
Pal + Smith

Professional Experience
Biography by Luis De Jesus, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

A painter, experimental animator and composer, Stephen Tompkins was born 1971, Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Bowling Green University, Bowling Green, Ohio, with a B.A. in Philosophy (1995). He also participated in the post-graduate program at Ohio University (1996) studying semiotics, phenomenology, and deconstruction, and as well as art, music theory and electronic music composition at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio (1990). Tompkins’ paintings, drawings, and animated videos employ the familiar iconography of animated cartoons and comic books in order to explore the fragmented subjectivities and cultural schizophrenia that permeates any sense of “rootedness” in our post-modern society. By fundamentally radicalizing the inherent codes of the genre (i.e. the apparent distortion of seemingly recognizable lines and forms) his work aims to formulate a new way of exposing the continually shifting cultural conventions that impose themselves on the individual, while revealing new associations and new hybrids with themes of memory, hallucination, dreams, nightmares, the unconscious and the subliminal.

Stephen Tompkins was recently nominated for the San Diego Art Prize 2010 by Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego curator Robin Clark, PhD, and a Maverick Movie Award for his composing for "Best Original Score" for the animated short film Rubbuds. He also filmed, directed, and produced the film and album Daniel Johnston at Home LIVE (2009), a music documentary performance of Daniel Johnston in Waller, Texas, and his animated short, Gummymorph, appears in the film Freak Out in Cucamonga, a documentary about the early studio years of Frank Zappa. He is currently planning to collaborate with internationally renowned avant-garde composer John Zorn on a new animated film. Tompkins has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the US and Europe, including, most recently, “Where on Earth Have You Been?” at Kunst and Andenken Gallery, Amsterdam; "FrischFleisch", Intoxicated Demons Gallery, Berlin; "Listen to Your Heart", MOHS Gallery, Copenhagen; "One Up", The Public Trust, Dallas; Gallery Artists' Annual 2007, BLK/MRKT Gallery, Los Angeles; “Intersections”, Cypress College Gallery, Cypress, CA.

Stephen also makes an appearance in the Werner Herzog / David Lynch film "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" playing the role of EMT.

Stephen Tompkins lives and works in Southern California is represented by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.

Photo by Robert Benson


“What would happen if you took classic 1920's cartoons and Ren and Stimpy episodes, chewed them up with shades of primary colors, and then horcked the whole thing onto a canvas? Nothing as good as Stephen Tompkins' work, for sure, though that's exactly what his pieces remind me of. It's like an abstract celebration of cartoon body parts in a roiling pop orgy."
- Brad Martin Juxtapoz

“Stephen Tompkins is a shockingly versatile artistic chameleon, working in drawing, painting, 3-D digital design, animation, music, and sculpture. His fittingly titled show Transmogrifications (the word refers to the act of changing from one form into another) includes several shape-shifting examples of his most recent work. Regardless of his medium du jour, Tompkins' surreal, explosive, and whimsical aesthetic vision is the thread that neatly ties it all together.”
- Heather Silva Flavorpill LA

“Tompkins' blobs and thingamabobs are closely related to those of various fine artists, especially squish-master Paul Henry Ramirez, not to mention Nina Bovasso, who large-scale watercolors look like medieval manuscripts painted with Mr. Bubble.

It's no accident that Tompkins studied Semiotics, the science of verbal and visual symbols. Whether inside or out, though, Tompkins' paintings and drawings here are fascinating, especially when he combines a human figure with trippy, drippy abstract fantasias.

'Friedrich and Siggy', for instance, starts with vintage engraved portraits of Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Niezsche, but replaces their heads with bubbling, swirling visual nonsense. Delightfully, "Friedrich sports discreet Mickey Mouse Club ears.”

- from Affirmations, Apparitions, Diaries & Dreams by Douglas Max Utter The Cleveland Plain Dealer


2010 "Escape 2010" : Vienna Austria (October 2010)
2010 STROKE 03 Urban Art Fair : Berlin Germany
2010 Luis De Jesus Los Angeles (Opening July 3rd 2010)
2010 "Here Not There" : MCASD (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego)
2010 STROKE 02 Urban Art Fair : Munich Germany
2010 "Where on Earth Have You Been?" (a survey of the most influential contemporary urban artists working today) : curated by Mather:Kunst at Stereolab Gallery Amsterdam, Netherlands
2010 "New Contemporaries III" exhibition for San Diego Art Prize nominations: Project X, Solana Beach California
2010 Intoxicated Demons Gallery : Stroke 02 'Warmup' Exhibition : Munich Germany
2009 Solo exhibition "FrischFleisch" : Intoxicated Demons Gallery : Berlin Germany
2009 "Kunst im Tresor" with Intoxicated Demons Gallery : Munich Germany
2008 "Listen to Your Heart" with Islands Fold at MOHS Gallery : Copenhagen Denmark
2008 "TRANSMOGRIFICATIONS" (solo) Found Gallery : Los Angeles
2008 Art Now Fair : New York City, New York
2008 Cypress College Gallery "Intersections" : Cypress California
2007 Jack Fischer Gallery (San Francisco) at the Red Dot Art Fair : Miami Beach
2007 The Public Trust "One Up" : Dallas Texas
2007 Kunst - und Kulturverein : Hamburg Germany
2007 Blutenweiss Gallery : "Anonymous Drawings 6" : Berlin Germany
2007 Art Prostitute Gallery "Melodic Inversions and Contrary Motions" with Ron English and Steven-Hopwood Lewis : Dallas Texas
2007 The Venice Contemporary : Los Angeles
2007 Blutenweiss Gallery : "Anonymous Drawings 5": Berlin Germany
2007 BLK/MRKT Gallery Artists' Annual 2007 : Los Angeles, California
2006 David Leonardis Gallery : Chicago Illinois
2006 "Channel Nine" : Distinction Art Gallery : San Diego, California
2006 "Evidence of the New" : Thomas Lavin at the Pacific Design Center : West Hollywood, California
2006 "Works on Paper" : Fluxfactory : Long Island City, New York
2006 "Labyrinth" at ONSIX Gallery : San Francisco, California
2006 "Fanatical Attics" at ONSIX Gallery : San Francisco, California
2005 Galerie Atelier Herenplaats : Rotterdam, Netherlands
2005 Jack Fischer Gallery : INSIDE/OUTSIDE : San Francisco, California
2004 "Affirmations, Apparitions, Diaries & Dreams" : Headfooters Gallery : Cleveland Ohio
2004 SOLO "Stephen Tompkins: Supraconscious" : Solo show at Risk Press Gallery : West Hollywood, California
2003 B & D Art Gallery : Geneva, Switzerland
2003 "San Francisco Invades Nashville" at TAG Gallery : Nashville, Tennessee
2003 SOLO "Stephen Tompkins' Chimeras" : Headfooters Gallery : Cleveland, Ohio
2002 "Mondes Interieurs (Inside Worlds) Black & White Drawing Exhibit" at B & D Art Gallery : Geneva Switzerland
2002 "Stephen Tompkins: Hallucinations & Other Oddities" Solo showcase at Minna Street Gallery : San Francisco, California
2002 "Digital Visions" at The Center for Contemporary Art : Sacramento California,
2001 Group Exhibit at Balazo Mission Badlands Gallery : San Francisco California (Collaborative works with Joel Elrod)
2001 "Bushwhacked" Balazo Mission Badlands Gallery : San Francisco California
2001 SOLO "Stephen Tompkins Selected Works 1998-2001" : solo show at Architects & Heroes : San Francisco, California
2000 SOLO "Stephen Tompkins: New Paintings & Screenprints" at FUSE, San Francisco California
1999 "The Art of Daniel Johnston & Stephen Tompkins" at Ironwood Industries : Austin, Texas
1998 Group Exhibit at Ironwood Industries : Austin, Texas
1997 Group Exhibit at SPACES Gallery: Cleveland Ohio


2009 "Year One Rewind" by DirtyPilot Press
2008 "The Interview with Stephen Tompkins" by Brad Martin for Secret Still / Juxtapoz
2007 "BLK/MRKT TWO" by BLK/MRKT Gallery and Die Gestalten Verlag
2007 "Manuscribbles" by Anteism Gallery Press
2007 "Anonymous Drawings 6" by Anke Becker
2006 "The Life, Art & Music of Daniel Johnston" by Tarssa Yazdani & Don Goede - Last Gasp Press
2006 Juxtapoz October "Pop Life" section "Fanatical Attics"
2006 Juxtapoz August "Fanatical Attics"
2005 New American Paintings Fall Issue #60
2004 Cleveland Plain Dealer "Outsiders Express Their Inner Selves" by Douglas Max Utter
2004 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 48 Featured in Raw News
2004 Northern Ohio Live Magazine "Affirmations, Apparitions, Diaries & Dreams"
2004 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 47
2003 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 44
2003 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 42 Featured in Raw News
2003 Cleveland Plain Dealer May 8th Front page of Arts
2002 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 41
2002 Raw Vision Magazine Issue 40 Featured in Raw News
2002 Nashville Rage : Critics Choice by Nicole Pietrantoni
2002 San Francisco Examiner : 'Buskwhacking' by Joyce Nishioka
2001 Area I Magazine "An Interview with Stephen Tompkins" by Dulcey Antonucci
1999 Austin Chronicle "The Art of Daniel Johnston & Stephen Tompkins" by Ben Wilcott
Awards and Recognition


2010 San Diego Art Prize 2010 nominated by Robin Clark, PhD Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

2010 Nomination: Lürzer's Archive "200 Best Illustrators"

2009 Nomination: Maverick Movie Awards "Best Original Score" for animated short film "Rubbuds"

2004 New American Paintings Issue #60 Curated by Fereshteh Daftari (Curator of Painting & Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art New York)

2000 Nominated for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art A + D Experimental Design Award  

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