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  • Writer's pictureDavid Eichholtz

Highlighting Joan Thorne, It Happened In SoHo, Paintings from 1960s to 80s at David Richard Gallery,

Joan Thorne



Oil on canvas

64 x 67"

Highlighting Joan Thorne It Happened In SoHo, Paintings from Late 1960s through the 80s THORNTON WILLIS JOAN THORNE DEAN FLEMING June 13 - July 21, 2023 Opening reception: Saturday, June 17 from 2:00 to 5:00 PM Chelsea, New York at 508 W 26 ST, Suite 9F David Richard Gallery, LLC 526 West 26 Street, Suite 311 | New York, NY 10001 P: (212) 882-1705 Private viewings are available by appointment, please call or email the gallery to schedule. Click here to view the exhibition

This exhibition marks Joan Thorne’s debut presentation with David Richard Gallery and sets the stage for an upcoming painting survey for this highly talented New York-based artist and long-time resident of SoHo. It is befitting that her debut be alongside colleagues with a focus on a pivotal time in all their early careers that helped create one of the most vibrant and historic neighborhoods that had a profound impact on many artist’s careers and the art scene in Lower Manhattan for many decades. David Richard Gallery is pleased to represent Joan Thorne.

Joan’s accomplishments did not stop in SoHo. Throughout her career she had many “firsts” and helped break down many boundaries for women artists. Her artworks were included in two editions of the Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in 1972 and again in 1981. In 1973 her first one-person exhibition was at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Thorne has been the recipient of the Prix de Rome Fellowship to paint at the American Academy in Rome, the Pollock Krasner Grant for painting (twice), Gottlieb Foundation Grant, and National Endowment for the Arts Grant, among others. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America and ArtNews, among many others. Her artworks are in numerous public collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, Albright Knox Gallery of Art in Buffalo, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas and the Cincinnati Art Museum Cincinnati, Ohio, and Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, VA among others.

Joan Thorne



Oil on paper

39.5 x 31.5 x 1"

The Early Years in SoHo:

SoHo (South of Houston Street) was home to a vibrant art scene in lower Manhattan beginning in the 1960s. Artists lived and worked in massive, light-filled lofts above the many important and pivotal galleries below at street level. Some of the early galleries included Park Place Gallery, 112 Greene Street, Paula Cooper Gallery, OK Harris, Artists Space and later in 420 West Broadway building Leo Castelli, Andre Emmerich and Ileana Sonnabend. Some of the many noteworthy artists who lived and worked in SoHo included: Adolph Gottlieb, Al Held, Ray Parker, Eva Hesse, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Donald Judd, Nam June Paik, Chuck Close, Neal Jenny, Deborah Remington, and Fred Eversley, among many others.

Thornton Willis, Joan Thorne and Dean Fleming lived and worked in SoHo during that early and dynamic period from the mid-1960s and onward. Willis, who moved to SoHo in 1967, and Fleming knew each other. Thorne knew Willis and Vered Lieb, who is married to Willis. Willis and Thorne were early residents in SoHo and continue to create new paintings and live in their original lofts to this day.

Joan Thorne



Oil on paper

40 x 26 x 1"

About the Exhibition:

The careers of Willis, Thorne, and Fleming overlapped each other in SoHo at varying times during the late 1960s and through the 1980s. Thus, that period is the focus of this exhibition, but more important are the artworks of these artists and their overlapping aesthetics, formal properties, and processes in creating their paintings. The paintings presented by Willis and Thorne were produced in their SoHo studios. Fleming, while not a permanent, long-term resident of SoHo nor New York per se, as noted above, he was an important and early figure in SoHo and remained tethered to SoHo until he moved permanently in the 1980s to Libre artist colony in Colorado. More than friendships and geographic co-location of their respective studios and residences, there are strong aesthetic parallels between the artworks of these artists that reflect the vibe of SoHo in what was an important time and specific location of artistic production in Lower Manhattan.

Joan Thorne Brizet 1982 Oil on canvas 50 x 50"

During this period Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism were dominant in the New York art scene following Abstract Expressionism and a time when everyone declared painting dead. Yet, Willis, Thorne and Fleming continued to paint and focused on abstraction. Their compositions were non-objective, but with references and influences unique to each artist that manifest themselves in subtle ways within the imagery. For instance, Willis’s use of geometry and structured compositions comes from his interest and early studies in Architecture. He was and remains rigorous in his compositions and geometric shapes, but not with his application of pigment where he was less concerned with perfection and preferred to have his process be fully revealed with edits, drips, residue, and painting outside the borders. Thorne’s international travels, memories, and dreams influence her work as well as synesthesia, her ability to experience color as sound and sound as color. Her paintings have clear figure and ground relationships that evoke landscape, architecture, and structures from her travels. They are full of energy, with dizzying brush strokes, bold colors, floating forms, and illusory depth suggesting surreal experiences. Fleming, best known in the 1960s as a hard-edge painter exploring the complexities of space and picturing the fourth dimension in a two-dimensional picture plane, had a major shift in his painting practice following a trip to Japan. He became inspired by calligraphy and during his later international travels where he lived and worked among diverse indigenous peoples, their cultures, beliefs, rituals and iconography forever influenced his medium, processes, and compositions.

Joan Thorne



Oil paint, Oil stick, pencil on paper

30 x 22 x 1"

There are several formal and aesthetic qualities that are common among these three painters. The first and most striking is color. Each has an intuitive sense of color and tend to use the highest contrasting hues possible. The colors are often layered leveraging transparency and opacity to provide a range of hues and values.

The second remarkable quality is the artists love of the act of painting, the literal movement of pigment and medium with gestural, sweeping strokes that direct the viewer’s eye throughout the compositions. Their gestures can create or fill the interior of intentional geometric shapes or swaths of color coincident with the building and excavating of color within a single stroke or shapes that emerge organically from the coalescence of repeated strokes. The gestural brush strokes and bold marks are palpable, the result of physical, direct, and authentic approaches by each artist. This is in stark contrast to other methods of painting at the time (Hard Edge painting, Optical Art, Minimalist painting) that was flat, pristine, and mostly void of the artist’s hand.

Joan Thorne Abozone 1988 Oil on canvas 65.5 x 56 Click here to view the artwork

The third common feature among the paintings of these three artists is the use of geometry. The sources of the inspiration and specific shapes varied among the artists. Both Willis and Thorne had references to architecture. However, Willis’s sources included: the exposed bare brick side of buildings from which he would derive his process-oriented Slat series; garden trellises for his classical grid paintings; and high-rise buildings popping up everywhere in New York as inspiration for his Cityscapes and Step series. Thorne’s sources noted above included her travels and dreams. Fleming’s sources of geometric shapes also came from his extensive travels, but more specifically the symbols and signs of different indigenous peoples that referenced their spiritual beliefs about life and the afterlife, the natural world, and connections between people and the earth. This last point emphasizes a common link to Fleming’s sources and Thorne’s thoughts about the kinetic energy of atoms and molecules and their morphing between shapes and forms, creating a flow of energy and a balance in the universe, while each of the three artist’s work contemplates metaphysical underpinnings and something spiritual. These sources also imply a more emotional and common approach to these artist’s processes and resulting artworks.

Joan Thorne Start 1975 Oil, paper, rabbit skin glue ground 41.5 x 29.5 x 1" Click here to view the artwork

About Joan Thorne:

Joan Thorne received a B.S. degree from New York University with a major in painting in 1965. Then earned an M.A. degree in 1968 from Hunter College, completing her thesis with Tony Smith which was a series of paintings.

In 1972 her work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial Exhibition. Several solo exhibitions followed: 1973 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; 1974 the Fischbach Gallery in New York City; 1977 the Art Fair in Cologne, Germany; 1979 The Clocktower in New York City in May. In 1979 she received a National Endowment Grant and invited to join the Willard Gallery in New York City with a debut exhibition in 1980. Barbara Rose included Thorne in the exhibition American Painting: The 80s, at the Grey Art Gallery in New York University, which was reviewed by Hilton Kramer for the Sunday Edition of the New York Times. A solo exhibition with the Dart Gallery in Chicago followed and paintings at the Grand Palais in Paris in a group exhibition organized by the Société des Artistes Indépendants.

In 1981 Thorne’s works were included in another edition of the Whitney Museum’s Biennial Exhibition. In 1982, a solo show at the Willard Gallery and a drawing show at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery in Buffalo, New York. In 1983 she had a solo show at the Dart Gallery in Chicago; John, Yau wrote an article that was published in Arts Magazine; and received a National Endowment Grant in Painting. In 1985 she had a one-person exhibition at the Graham Modern Gallery in New York with a catalog and essay by John Yau. Stephen Westfall wrote about her work in Art in America Magazine in December 1985

Joan Thorne Stypo 1973 Oil on canvas 70 x 30" Click here to view the artwork

The American Academy of Arts And Letters selected Thorne to participate in the "Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts" in 2020. In 2021 she had a four-decade retrospective at the Barry Art Museum in Norfolk VA with a 54 page catalog and essay by Richard Vine the Managing Editor of Art In America Magazine. Another essay was written by Vittorio Colaizzi, art historian.

Thorne was a recipient of the Prix de Rome Fellowship to paint at the American Academy in Rome, the Pollock Krasner Grant for painting (twice) and the Gottlieb Grant among others.

Thorne’s artworks are in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, Albright Knox Gallery of Art in Buffalo, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas and the Cincinnati Art Museum Cincinnati, Ohio, Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, VA among others.


Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT

Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, VA

Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH

Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire

Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX

Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN

Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL

Museo de las Casas Reales, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME

List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

Lincoln Center Poster Collection and Gallery, New York, NY

Smorgon Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia

Sloan Kettering Hospital, New York, NY

Roselyn C. Swig, Artsource, San Francisco, CA

Joan Thorne



Oil on canvas

103 x 72"

All Artwork Copyright © Joan Thorne All Courtesy David Richard Gallery. All Photographs by Yao Zu Lu

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