Established Gallery announced the appointment of a new Director, Johnny Thornton, who stepped into this new role on September 1, 2019. Thornton is an artist, gallery director and independent curator living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Thornton’s career has been marked by creating art-based communities and fostering the careers of other artists.
Thornton is currently the program director for Arts Gowanus, a non-profit organization working to support, promote, and advocate for local artists and a sustainable arts community in Brooklyn. As a practicing artist with a studio in Gowanus, Thornton is familiar with the challenges that artists face and has dedicated his professional career to supporting other artists and building communities. For many artists and art-based businesses in Brooklyn, finding and keeping affordable spaces is the biggest challenge. Artists are often the first to populate trendy neighborhoods, but can be among the first to be muscled out by rising rents. As artists are pushed deeper into Brooklyn, they join and strengthen local creative communities. Thornton’s work is at the forefront of this effort: his community-development and curatorial work to date has focused largely on the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park. As program director of Arts Gowanus, Thornton develops relationships between individual artists, collectors, organizations, and the community.
Thornton is also the director and head curator of La Bodega Art Space and Gallery in Brooklyn. Opened in 2017, La Bodega’s mission is to “build bridges, not walls.” Thornton has helped owner and Oaxacan artist, Miguel Ayuso, shape the inclusive culture and curatorial vision La Bodega. The space is marked by its community-oriented programming and lively monthly openings.
As Thornton steps into his new role as gallery director at Established Gallery alongside owner Greg Griffith, he plans to bring more innovative arts programming to the Brooklyn audience. Established Gallery endeavors to engage its surrounding neighborhoods of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, featuring local and international, emerging and mid-career artists. The gallery sits just off of bustling Flatbush Avenue. Its floor-to-ceiling windows provide pedestrians the perfect view of the work inside, and passersby often unexpectedly find themselves drawn inside to take a closer look.
One such show to draw in crowds with its colorful, moving sculptures was Strange Loops by Stuart Lantry. Curated by Griffith and Thornton, and the first show since Thornton joined Established, Strange Loops, featured Lantry’s humorous, kinetic sculptures. The pieces functioned as feedback loops unto themselves and explored issues of form, movement, and the embodiment of the human experience.
In November, the gallery will present the group show MACHO curated by Alexandra Rubinstein and Andrew Smenos. MACHO will investigate what it means to be a man in today’s evolving landscape. The show will bring together artists of varying genders, perspectives, and mediums to weigh in and address the concept of masculinity as it relates to them.
In December, Established Gallery will debut Thornton’s most recent series in a solo exhibition, Sophisticated Mess. This series will build on the recurring stylistic themes of his previous work, but depart from that work’s focus on the corporeal experience. Thornton past work includes the series Self Portraits of Other People, a series of paintings that capture the one day of a subject’s life. This body of work consists of painstakingly detailed, black and white photorealistic oil paintings, overlaid with quick, gestural blind-contour drawings. By using two contradictory styles in each piece, Thornton illustrates the contrasting elements of physical and psychological identity.
Thornton’s artwork explores the human condition while his professional career has been about building communities and interpersonal relationships.