John Havens Thornton at Amstel Gallery, the Yard, NYC

Laetitia Lina - Tuesday, September 08, 2015

From September 15, 2015 to January 15, 2016, L&L ARTS and Amstel Gallery presents JOHN HAVENS THORNTON: A Survey of painting spanning 50 years, 1964 - 2014, at The Yard (Floor 2 to 5), 234 Fith Av, NY. Curated by Gregory de la Haba and Laetitia Lina. Opening reception brunch: Sunday October 11 from 1 to 3pm.


The retrospective - spanning fifty years of paintings by American artist John Havens Thornton (b.1933) - marks the first show the artist has had in New York since his work was included in the Whitney Museum’s “Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting” in 1967. The roster of artists from that year's exhibition reads a compilation of names synonymous with stunning achievement in American art including William de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Edward Ruscha, Andrew Wyeth, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Jim Dine, Helen Frankenthaler, Alex Katz, Robert Indiana, Georgia O'Keeffe, and others.

Born to American parents in Mexico City in 1933, Thornton graduated Princeton in 1955 with classmate Frank Stella (also in the 1967 Whitney show). While at Princeton, Thornton studied methods of abstract expressionism under the renowned William Seitz, the first Princeton Professor awarded a PhD in modern art -writing who penned some of the earliest major texts on Abstract Expressionism and eventually became an influential curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It wasn't until the 1960s -when Thornton abandoned the splashy and gestural emotionalism of the Ab-Ex movement and sought a more subtle and minimalist approach to painting- that he found his own voice as artist. Thornton’s new-found expression of reductive work was selected for inclusion in the Whitney Museum‘s 1967 show - the exhibition that would later become the Whitney Biennale.

It is from this pivotal moment in the early 1960's that curators Gregory de la Haba and Laetitia Lina begin their survey of Thornton's lifelong career dedicated to pictorial expression.

Rich with ambiguities of space and color, Thornton explains his work as "searching for the meaning of line as an edge or a direction that attempts to describe a spatial event." According Roger Mandle, former Director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., these paintings from the 1960's are Thornton’s “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."

About the Artist
John Havens Thornton lives and works in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1963 he became professor of Art at the Massachusetts College of Art where he taught studio art and the 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).

“Art is the coherent expression of personality.”
John Havens Thornton.


Gallery Information
Amstel Gallery at The Yard
234 Fifth Avenue, Floors 2 - 5
New York, New York, NY 10001

October 6, 2015 – January 15, 2016
Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm and by appointment
Opening Reception Brunch: Sunday: October 11, from 1 – 3pm

To make an appointment or to learn more about the exhibition please contact Gregory bodegadelahaba@gmail.com or Laetitia - laetitia@llarts.com.   

Media Contacts:
Helen Allen: E: helen@allencooper.com, T: (917) 843 3544