Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York: In 1994, a pioneering gallerist, Richard Timperio, founded the Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg as an experimental stage for artists. Since that time, he has fostered the careers of many young emerging artists who were eventually picked up by the larger galleries in Manhattan. He also balanced his exhibitions by showing the more established New York School abstract artists, including Larry Poons, Dan Christensen, and Thornton Willis. Now, he is presenting a solo exhibition by Joan Thorne, another painter from this group, who first achieved significant critical acclaim nearly thirty years ago. The show will run from November 19th to December 19th, with an opening night party on Saturday November 20th at 7:00 pm.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 32-page catalogue. An essay by art historian, Peter Hastings Falk, "'The Ghost Picked Me': The Life and Art of Joan Thorne," bears a title taken from a quote by Bob Dylan, one of Thorne's peers. Falk points out that Thorne emerged from the shadows of the Abstract Expressionists, determined to make her own mark on painting. In 1972, her painting was included in the Whitney Museum's last Annual Exhibition (thereafter it became the Biennial Exhibition). This show featured other young women of the third generation of the New York School, including Nancy Graves [1940–1995], Sylvia Mangold [b.1938], and Elizabeth Murray [1940–2007]. The next year, Thorne was given a rare solo show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Shortly afterward, she met Jack Tworkov and was delighted to find that he was already an admirer of her works. "Jack became the father I really never had," she says. "We had frequent dialogue about both painting and life . . . and he always treated me like an equal in painting."
In 1979, she was included in Barbara Rose's seminal exhibition, "American Painting: The Eighties," at the Grey Gallery at New York University. And the next year, she was included in an exhibition of critics' picks at the Grand Palais in Paris, sponsored by the Société des Artistes Indépendents. In 1981 she was again selected for the Whitney Biennial. Despite the Biennial's bias toward conceptualism, which has persisted to the present day, there was an effort to maintain diversity and include artists who were still in hot pursuit of dragging, slashing, dripping, and scraping paint across a two-dimensional surface. Other women who joined her included Jennifer Bartlett [b.1941], Lynda Benglis [b.1941], and Judy Pfaff [b.1946]. This vanguard of women continued to fight for greater recognition in a male-dominated art world despite sexism in the art establishment and its attendant lack of exhibition opportunities for women.
In 1987 the American Academy awarded Thorne the Prix de Rome in Visual Arts. She returned to Italy for the next twelve summers, painting in Siena. When Barbara Rose curated "Abstract Painting of the 90s" at the Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York in 1991, she again selected Thorne. The painter, Thornton Willis [b.1936], a close friend since 1974, explained Thorne's roots and those of the third generation. "As much as we like to place artists in neat categories, Joan's art is unique. It comes from a highly personal vision, as does all moving art. For a long time, some conceptualists have been saying that painting is dead, but it remains very much alive . . . Joan has always been respected among artists as a strong painter whose expressions are uniquely her own."
The catalogue also features an essay by the painter and critic, Robert C. Morgan, titled "Joan Thorne: Traveling in Search of Light." Morgan, who has closely followed Thorne's career, calls her paintings "ebullient, yet enigmatic" yet confesses that "Language always falls a little short" when trying to describe "the unburdened elegance of truly significant painting. One might, in fact, consider such work at the origin of all that we may ever care to write." Morgan zeros in on Thorne's sense of light as the focus of her paintings, "where the shapes of light seem to cut through nature, revealing obtuse angles and curvaceous tendrils, lingering in the twilight of dawn and dusk." Indeed, he points out that her paintings signify "a narrative expression, a tilt in the register of Modernism where painting once again renews its inner-voice and in doing so reflects the whole of nature as a neurological system dispersing synaptic charges."
For the past ten years, The Sideshow Gallery has been located at 319 Bedford Avenue between South 2nd and South 3rd streets in Williamsburg. It continues to catch the attention of adventurous collectors. Jacques Roche, critic for ontheinside.info wrote, "I like Sideshow Gallery because it is not a slave of the trends. It's receptive to different sensibilities. On average they are older artists, and they do what they want to do, as opposed to a famous gallery with a much younger generation of artists who are really eager to make it before they are thirty with a specific product."
Now, just as Louise Bourgeois was "rediscovered," so is Timperio focusing some limelight on Thorne to show collectors what they have missed owing to the artist's frequent extended sojourns around the world in quest of inspiration.