Torey Thornton has created a language in painting and sculpture that is all his own. “In a very simple way, I grew up wanting to be a part of New York School painting,” he says. “I realized that there is no way to produce those paintings and have them still be relevant because those concerns and problems aren’t there anymore. There are so many other things going on to push against. Now, my work is more about taking that scale and playing with it.”
Thornton is cognizant of the historical precedents for his work, but he feels no need to exist in a state of homage, as many young artists do. This is in the service of creating an immediate connection to the bodies that interact with his work. “I have so many layers of a certain type of history in the paintings, but from day one I have been trying to build my own space to work in, and hoping that through the logic I use, and what I am building in front of the viewer, there will be an understanding of what goes into the picture.”
In paintings such as Breaking Some Rules For Momma, (Theresa), which he created in 2014, we might see a human figure, and we might find that figure reminiscent of Willem de Kooning or later Jackson Pollock. This allows us to orient ourselves alongside the picture, but those visual references have been reformulated in unexpected ways. The figure, for instance, exists on a partially formed grid, which places the figure in a more rational space, as if the grid constitutes the body and vice versa. Of course, most New York School painters would be aghast at such a juxtaposition, but thankfully we can benefit from Thornton’s willingness to combine paradoxical aesthetic lexicons.