From July 9 to August 29, 2015, L&L ARTS presents JOHN HAVENS THORNTON: The Layers, at Josee Bienvenu Gallery, NY. Opening reception: Thursday July 9, 2015 from 6 to 8pm.
brings together a selection of 1960s paintings by American artist John
Thornton first explored and analyzed
abstraction, with fellow classmate Frank Stella, under the guidance of
William Seitz at Princeton University in the mid 1950s. Seitz, who later
became the first person in 1955 awarded a PhD in modern art from
Princeton University, wrote some of the earliest major texts on Abstract
Expressionism and had strong influence on John Thornton's work. In the
early 1960s Thornton's work developed a mature approach to minimal and
conceptual pictorial expression. While his forms grew linear and the
references became figurative, the focus shifted on the structure,
meanings and emotions associated to shapes and colors. In 1967, the
curators of the Whitney Museum of American Art selected Thornton "Tree"
series to be featured in the "Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American
painting" - the exhibition that would later become the Whitney
John Thornton's reductive paintings from the 1960's
are rich with ambiguities of space and color. Thornton explains these
works as searching for the meaning of line as an edge or a direction
that attempts to describe a spatial event. These paintings are his
intuitive exercises in which lines paradoxically "undefine space"
through his exquisitely lean color palette and simplified forms. Against
neutral colored backgrounds, Thornton has painted the elemental
outlines of archetypal domestic shapes: shoes, trees, towers, and others
suggesting forms that demand space for their presence. By the use of
subtle transitions of color within these lines, he flattens the forms to
abstractions that become cyphers for themselves. Thus the lines defy or
"ruin" space and form so that we must confront his paintings as
abstract exercises of great beauty and pleasure.
engineering study and early work as an industrial designer have imbued
his paintings with a clean logic; but he turns this logic on itself.
Rather than solving visual problems as would a designer, Thornton uses
these skills to describe profound visual and philosophical questions
about the nature of perception and reality. It is as if Thornton was
seeking in his paintings to confirm ineffable issues of his own being,
while making beautiful reductions of what he thinks he saw.
"The Layers," Stanley Kunitz, one of Thornton's poet heroes, has
written; "I have walked through many lives / some of them my own / and I
am not who I was / though some principle of being / abides, from which I
struggle / not to stray." John Thornton's lovely wanderings through
the illogic of the deceptive lines in his work ponder similar concerns
Roger Mandle, 2015
John Havens Thornton is an American
artist, born in Mexico City in 1933. He lives and works in New Bedford,
Massachusetts. Thornton studied painting at Princeton University and
graduated in 1955. In 1963 he became professor of Art at the
Massachusetts College of Art and taught studio art and philosophy of art
until 1984. Selected exhibitions include: Robert Hamilton/John Havens Thornton - Selected New Paintings, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (1967), Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American painting, Whitney Museum, NY (1967), Solo exhibition, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA (1970), Visual Memoirs curated by Carl Belz, Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA (1979), Landscape as Metaphor: The Transcendental Vision, Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA (1993), Landscape as Metaphor: The Transcendental Vision, Newport Art Museum, RI (1994), Triennial, Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA (1999), John Thornton Paintings: A Retrospective, New Bedford Art Museum, MA (2004), Line + Relation, John and Charles Thornton, Gelb Gallery, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA (2010).
historian Roger Mandle was Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the
National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from 1988 to 1993, and
president of The Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, until
2008. After leaving his post at RISD Mandle assumed the directorial
position at the Qatar Museums Authority.
For further information, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exhibition on view from July 9th at:
Josée Bienvenu gallery
529 West 20th Street
(between 10th & 11th Avenues)
New York, NY 10011
Tel 212 206 7990
10am - 6pm
Tuesday through Saturday