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KNOXVILLE—International artist and UT alumnus Justin Randolph Thompson will debut his project “The Pits,” a sculptural installation and jazz performance, Friday.

The opening reception will be from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., October 7, at the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, 106 S. Gay Street. It will be part of First Friday festivities. The exhibit will be on display through October 29.

Today at 7:00 p.m., Thompson will give a slide presentation about his artwork at Art and Architecture Building, Room 113. This event is free and open to the public.

Thompson, of Florence, Italy, will be an artist-in-residence in the UT School of Art for two weeks. He is working with art and architecture students to create the multi-media exhibit at the UT Downtown Gallery.

“The Pits” is a sculptural installation and performance that investigates the political employment of sound, both in realm of propaganda and as protest, and the visual hierarchies of the architectural organization of theater space.

The work also involves a collaboration with his brother Jason Thompson, a local jazz musician and UT alumnus, who is leading a group of musicians in a live performance of an original composition. The eight-to ten-piece pit orchestra will perform a score that shifts from classical, triumphant marches, into the drum and flute sound of Black Power poets, through folk styles of spiritual praise, and finally into abrasive Hip Hop.

Justin Randolph Thompson earned his bachelor of fine arts from UT in 2001 and his master’s of fine arts from American University in 2003.

His work investigates crossroads between art historical references from Italian antiquity and contemporary African American cultural expressions. His art exhibitions in the United States include the cities of Minneapolis, Washington D.C., San Antonio, and New York. Recent projects and performances in Europe include venues in London, Barcelona, Madrid, Venice, and Zurich.

The history of the quilt, both in Africa and in the United States, is another focus of his research. Thompson says that his work “aims to create a new vantage point from which to view elements of African American history and culture as contemporary issues, involving ideas and conceptions rooted in antiquity.”

For more information about the exhibit, visit

To learn more about the artist, visit

C O N T A C TS :

Mike Berry, UT Downtown Gallery manager (865-673-0802,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,