John Torreano

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John Torreano
Born John Francis Torreano
New York City, New York
Nationality American
Education BFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art
MFA, Ohio State University
Known for Painting

John Torreano (born 1941) is an American artist from New York City. He is currently clinical professor of studio art at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.[1] Torreano is known for utilizing faceted gems in a variety of mediums in order to create "movement oriented perception" in his works.[2] Artist Richard Artschwager described Torreano's works as "paintings that stand still and make you move."[3]


John Francis Torreano was born in Flint, Michigan, United States in 1941. He earned his BFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1963. He received his MFA from Ohio State University in 1967.[4] In his career Torreano has visited nearly every major art school in the United States and Canada as an "artist in residence." Since 1992, he has been clinical professor of studio art at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. He is currently director of the MFA in Studio Art Program.[2]

Torreano has worked in a variety of mediums and methods including paint, sculpture, relief, furniture and hand-blown glass. His works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, and many others. His series of paintings titled "TV Bulge" were featured in the 1969 Whitney Biennial.[3]

Major themes[edit]

Torreano grew up in a large Catholic family and spent much of his youth as an altar boy. Torreano states that the environment of the Catholic church influenced his art, with his use of jewels serving as a metaphor for vigil lights.[3] Other religious influences appear in his pieces as well: his work in the 1980s included bejeweled crosses, and in recent years his paintings have used gems to create space-like constellations such as Exploding Galaxy (1981)[5] and Star Field in Saggitarius (2003).[6]

Throughout his career Torreano has investigated the properties of real and fake gemstones in the differing contexts of lighting, placement and materials.[4] In 1972, as an artist in residence at the Art Institute of Chicago, Torreano first began integrating gems into his paintings. Torreano then experimented with jewel-encrusted columns in 1974-5 and later, intricate furniture pieces, such as a bejeweled mahogany table in 1983.[3]

Torreano theorizes that all art "exists somewhere between a totally abstract creation and a total reproduction of physical things in the world." He believes that artists are similar to physicists in their use of theoretical models to gain insight into the physical world. Torreano uses the gem to bring together the world of theory and the world of things. Because gems are a geometric form as well as an object of popular culture, his use of fake gems can become real art by standing in the gap between the two.[7] Because of this, Torreano describes his work as "real fake art."[8] Torreano argues that humans have a role in fabricating and refining gems, just as the artist fabricates a sculpture. Because of this, Torreano's works can be considered more valuable than real gems because there are fewer of them and they are created by an individual artist, "making art value the highest value."[2]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2009: Remembering: Neighborhoods and Factories, Flint, Michigan. Gallery Space at NYU Wagner School of Social Service
  • 2008: Looking Close, Looking Far: A Survey of Artworks by John Torreano. Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University
  • 2007: Scapes. Feature Inc., New York, NY
  • 2005: John Torreano. Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, FL
  • 2003: Center for Creative Studies, Detroit MI
  • 1999: John Torreano: Material World. JCCC Gallery of Art, Overland Park KS
    • The Columns: Choreography of Perceptions. The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown OH
    • Paintings, Oddballs, and Wallgems.
  • 1997: John Torreano. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis IN
  • 1993: Every Gem is a Hand Held Star. Norton Gallery of Art, Palm Beach
  • 1989: John Torreano: Natural Models and Material Illusions. The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC
  • 1988: Diamond Vases, An Installation. Museum of Modern Art, NY, NY
    • John Torreano: Gems, Stars and Perpetual Thinking. Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids MI
  • 1987: 100 Diamonds. Jamie Wolf Gallery, New York NY
  • 1968: The Whitney Museum School, New York NY [2]

Grants and awards[edit]

  • 2003: The Nancy Graves Foundation Grant for Visual Artists
  • 1991: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • 1989: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Washington DC
  • 1982: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Washington DC
  • 1979: Creative Arts for Public Service Program, New York NY


  • 2007: Drawing by Seeing (Abrams Studio)
  • 2006: American Art Since 1900 (Blanton Museum of Art)
  • 1992: John Torreano: Metaphors and Oxymorons (The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC)[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Torreano: Clinical Professor of Studio Art". NYU-Steinhardt: Faculty Bio. 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e John Torreano (2009). "Narrative Statement". Archived from the original on September 28, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Brooks Adams (1991). "John Torreano: Scarred Diamonds.". Art News. 
  4. ^ a b Indianapolis Museum of Art (2009). "Indianapolis Museum of Art Loans Four Outdoor Sculptures to IUPUI." (PDF). IMA Press Release. Retrieved November 23, 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ Lorenz, Marianne. "John Francis Torreano: Art in Context". The Dayton Art Institute. Archived from the original on October 15, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  6. ^ Oakes, Julie (2006). "John Torreano: Situation, Positioning, Location. May 25-June 24, 2006". Headbones Gallery-The Drawers. 
  7. ^ Indianapolis Museum of Art (1997). "John Torreano, Forefront 24: January 12 – March 16, 1997". Exhibit Catalog. 
  8. ^ The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2000). "John Torreano: Bookends". Editions for the Renaissance Society. 

External links[edit]