Home Magazine Jonathan Torres introduces Happy Sad

Park Place Gallery is pleased to present Happy Sad, a solo exhibition by Jonathan Torres. Torres is a Puerto Rican artist from San Juan who now lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. This body of paintings and drawings explores otherworldliness and his reality of living in the diaspora. 

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Torres states, “Many of my paintings depict distorted faces; the figures undergo or have completed metamorphosis – they are a recognizable character, yet transformed to a new persona. With this, I reflect on my own identity as a Puerto Rican and someone who left the island, but also on living in a rough city like New York. In both places, beauty and happiness exist, but the absurdity and the anxiety are present, both personally and politically. In my works I want the viewer to be absorbed into this world intertwining anxiety and beauty.”


Jonathan Torres. The Last Supper, 2017. Courtesy of Park Place Gallery.


Using the format of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Torres transforms the subject and creates his own narrative. Torres presents a new perspective that expands the vision of the known to what can be. Spread out the flayed sacrificial central figure represents the last meal. Its torn apart corpse covers the table in blood and carnage remaining volatile with squirting blood and flinging flesh dispersing throughout the scene. The central figure rising above in the traditional position of Christ is now Torres' iconic figure, the “Frowning Cat”. The toast is being made and the ceremony is in full force as the bottle is raised while flesh and blood stains the mouths of all. As the viewer examines the “guts of the painting”, a grotesque scene, one finds an inventive space where the drama of the paint reveals the phantasmagoric narrative which ensues. The beautifully painted surface draws us into the turbulent depths. Comparing the subject and its interpretation to the act of painting, we can see a parallel in radicality and anarchy. Yes, even Christ was a rebel for his time.

Jonathan Torres. Mother Appetite, 2015. Courtesy of Park Place

Mother Appetite is inspired by Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. This nocturnal painting depicts a mysterious woman devouring a grinning cat. Form is created through shimmering light emanating from within a deep atmospheric darkness. A delicious meaty cannibalistic quality of paint tempts the appetite of the viewer with a fleshy and colorful ice cream like quality. Levity and gravitas, sumptuous beauty and revulsion merge in a maelstrom of energy. What is real or symbolic becomes ceremonial for the act of painting.

Jonathan Torres. Mother Appetite, 2015. Courtesy of Park Place

Mother Appetite II, similar to Mother Appetite Torres, reflects upon the interpretation of a muse, together they represent opposites dark and light or happy and sad. In this painting a contemplative sorcerer sits amongst a field of meaty flowers engulfed by an ominous landscape as she conjures a spell that conducts a golden glow. Her beautifully serene face slips into a somber frowning cat with a Pinocchio-like nose. The observer becomes the observed, as the subject now mirrors the psychology of the artist.

Jonathan Torres. The Wedding Feast, 2013. Courtesy of Park Place 

The Wedding Feast, inspired by writings of Karl Marx, teases and critiques the convention of marriage and the institutionalized systems that establish its definition. A common wedding portrait is portrayed monstrous, even grotesque in its depiction of the bride and groom. On further analysis this horrific scene rejoices in the beautiful splendors of paint. Working on a delicate lace surface Torres is seduced by the feminine lace as well as reminded of the formal lace in the decor of his Grandparents home. Torres wants the painting to communicate through the five senses touch, hearing. sight, smell and taste, through the pleasures and torments of his painting’s application and its associations. The cat faced groom walks with a paint immersed bride. They are joined by a meaty bouquet of flowers. A dark background absorbs and repels the couple. A priest looms centrally above as a fulcrum to the painting suspending the subject for judgment.

Jonathan Torres. Angel and the Tooth Fairy, 2013. Courtesy of Park Place 

Angel and the Tooth Fairy is inspired by Caravaggio’s painting “The Calling of Saint Matthew”. A Demon writes in blood the laws that govern humankind. This is witnessed by an angel by the Demons side. The two are surrounded by three large “happy/sad” mouths with gnashing, growling, laughing teeth. The painting's chaotic spinning vortex draws us into its depths. Torres explores conflicted emotions as he is pulled between his new life in New York City and his native home he left behind in Puerto Rico.

Jonathan Torres. Toro Negro, 2018. Courtesy of Park Place 


A mountain in the center of the Island at Ciales, Puerto Rico, Toro Negro, is the source and title of this painting. A romantic outing goes bad as the vulnerable central figure the “girlfriend'' is threatened by the menacing predatory demon serpin. Her guardian, the zombie Torres, uses a machete to hack the demon to death at the edge of the forest. The dead kill’s evil to save a life. The vulnerable innocence of life is unaware of the looming evil that threatens fate.

Jonathan Torres. F*cking Paradise, 2013. Courtesy of Park Place 

Torres depicts a bizarre psychological paradise in the diptych, F*cking the Paradise. He battles his fears, is seduced by his passions, and exposes his vulnerabilities while addressing greater concerns of colonization. On the right, the protagonist is a crazed colonizer who slaughters the tropics of Puerto Rico with a chainsaw. On the left, the jungle is haunted by screams and the laughter of faces intertwined with snakes and vegetation. This bloody orgiastic compositing creates a chaotic and carnivalesque explosion of expulsive color and form. Composed of symphonic movements and spatial relationships which uncover the wonderment of his subconscious. He analyzes “realities” relationship to metaphysical and otherworldly realms.

Torres' depictions of bizarre paradises are created by emphasizing a materialistic ritual of paint and process. Even though depicting something recognizable, neo abstract expressionism allows for a physicality and catharsis through the process. Torres uses memories and trauma from personal experiences to comment on the collective chaotic socio-political environment.

Cover Image: Jonathan Torres. F*cking Paradise, 2013. Courtesy of Park Place

Written by: Park Place 

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