Welcome to the Cosmos
Welcome to John Torreano’s abstract paintings and drawings. The paintings are accentuated by plastic gems, wooden balls, paint, and plywood in his effort to capture the universe. With the universe as muse, he has created works that pull us into the mysteries and wonders of the cosmos aided by images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The balls and gems are ingredients for lively, passionate, and beautiful pieces. It’s a mix of abstraction and realism. It’s painting that refuses to lie flat and insists on intruding into our space as the jewels reflect light and change as one moves around them. They seem to look back at us as we look at them.
In the early 1970s, Torreano discovered these plastic gems on a casual stroll along Canal Street in New York City where a zillion odd lots spill out of storefronts into sidewalk bins. The gems became powerful components of his paintings as stars or jewels. However one observes these paintings, one is made aware of the energized space in front of us that can’t quite escape the pull of outer space. Torreano creates tension between the mundane world of simple dimestore objects and the infinite abstraction of cosmic space loaded with movement and energy–a constant tugging at our sensibilities of what is real and what is imagined.
As we all know, the universe has fascinated mankind forever. In more recent times, starting with illuminated manuscripts from the 14th century and Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy completed in 1305, artists have observed and portrayed the night skies and the star-filled mysteries therein. In his 1889 painting The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh transformed those early, gold-flecked starry skies into vibrations of energy. Later on, in the latter part of the 20th century, Vija Celmins forced us to ponder the depth of outer space with its clutter of stars crowding the heavens. At the same time, Torreano’s paintings played with our sensibilities by offering specific images of nebula and stars that could also be read as glorious abstractions, not to mention the purely abstract pieces that evolved out of them.
Plywood became a fitting ground for his work. The grain supplies a depth and spatial quality to the jewels, balls, and paint that either float on top or inhabit gouged out holes. Some jewels crawl over the frame attempting an escape into our space. Some paintings are light and quiet, others are aggressively gouged and noisy. They beg one to enter them and enjoy their vibrancy and remember the universe from whence they came. Torreano is a master of extracting joy, amazement, and emotion out of paint, plywood, and those pedestrian gems clustered in odd lot bins on Canal Street.
Torreano’s drawings, some of which are studies for paintings, are flat but no less active in toying with realism and portraying the magnificent, infinite variations of the cosmos. His work introduces us to a world of wit and wonder and to his intellectual curiosity about what’s out there that can be brought down to earth.
— Julie Augur, Guest Curator