New York

John Torreano

Hamilton Gallery

Torreano’s abstract jewel works glittered like kitsch skies full of stars; now he has given shape to those skies by delineating constellations and galaxies on his canvases, which have titles like Orion and Helix Nebula. Those new paintings that do not refer to the galaxies refer in another way to the heavens: wooden cruciforms, studded with jewels and glass, bear such titles as Irish Cross and Diamontes en la Cruz. This incorporation of “imagery” may seem like a grand departure, but it is really more a camp meditation on the metaphorical possibilities of the jewel. What, after all, could be more trite an association than that of jewels with the stars in the sky? In Exploding Galaxy, clear, bright stones converge against a dark, dotted mass. Even without the title, one would have little trouble identifying the astronomical reference. And in Veil Nebula, a screen of glass jewels shimmers with a sickly sweet, artificial preciousness that could be matched in words only by the most banal of clichés.

With the cruciforms, Torreano evocatively recreates the feel of medieval treasures—without the religion. In these mock-religious artifacts, he assumes a satirical stance. Torreano is adept in his witty use of clichés and metaphors. But in exaggerating the kitsch quality of his work to such obvious extremes, he has also allowed his work to become more formal. There is an underlying conservatism here, perhaps because the banal materials are now hidden in amusing but pleasing forms and shapes. Any subversive quality that the previous glass-jewel work may have had is now subtle enough to be nearly nonexistent.

Joan Casademont