198 cm (77 15/16 in.)
(1941 - )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Acrylic on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1979
I and Universe Painting, two works by John Torreano from 1968 and 1975 respectively, reflect the artist’s belief that art is a process of communication between artist, artwork, and viewer, a process that grants the viewer as much say in the creative potential of each artwork as the artist himself. The two works also testify to Torreano’s longstanding preoccupation with a particular set of formal issues: both I and Universe Painting are predicated on an ornamental sense of geometry and a vivid sense of color and surface. At the same time, they give viewers the opportunity to trace the development of Torreano’s career between 1968 and 1975, when he refined certain theoretical principles and shifted media from painting to a hybridized form of painting and sculpture.
In I, the first painting he ever sold, Torreano manipulates figure/ground relationships. Stripes painted in vibrant hues intersect with one another to form a plaid design. Torreano recently stated that he intended the white circle in the middle of the canvas to “close with the wall” so that it appeared as if the circle was not a circle at all, but rather part of the wall behind the painting. When the illusion is successful, the wall, not the canvas, acts as the “ground” for the plaid design (or “figure”). Placing what could potentially be read as a “hole” in the canvas serves another purpose as well: it acknowledges the fact of the gallery, drawing attention, through formal means alone, to the physical space that surrounds the painting. I might thus be said to demonstrate a certain amount of self-awareness with regard to its own context. The title is a verbal pun that refers to the word I (as in me) as well as the word eye, a meaning reinforced by the circular shape of the canvas. This particular title anthropomorphizes the painting, as if I had the ability to return the viewer’s gaze.