Roy Thurston

Current Fellow

Fellow: Awarded 2017

Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

In his four-decade career as a painter Roy Thurston has eschewed traditional painting theory. Working with only the most basic elements – initially paint and a panel - Thurston has explored painting as a transmission of visual experiences. Thurston’s paintings eliminate metaphor, narrative, overt theory and, to a certain degree, composition. They champion the life force discoverable to the viewer via materials utilized, the artist’s process and specifics of time and place.

Though born in New York and raised in Maine, Thurston headed west to Colorado College for his undergraduate studies. Upon graduation (BA 1971) Thurston made his way to the Claremont Graduate School (MFA 1974) where he trained with noted acoustic artist Michael Brewster. By 1975 Thurston had moved slightly west from Claremont to Venice, California and set up his own studio. During this time, while maintaining his own art practice and exhibiting, he worked first as an assistant to painter Guy Williams and then to sculptor James Turrell. Thurston was instrumental in the construction of Turrell’s installations at the Whitney Museum and P.S. 1 in the early 1980s. In 1985 Thurston supervised the construction of Turrell’s installation at MOCA (35,000 square feet of an architectural design.) Through the years he has continued to provide physical support for a number of museums and galleries.

Over the years, Thurston’s initial materials (paper and wood panels) have given way to aluminum and even copper. Transparent paint laced with specifically calibrated amounts of pigment has transformed the light reflecting possibilities of the base metals. The artist has also evolved techniques and machinery for altering the surface of the painting by means of scraping or cutting. In the last fifteen years, with the implementation of these innovations, Thurston’s paintings offer the suggestion of a form inside the embodiment of color. Current work has substituted new materials on top of metal significantly altering the qualities described above.

His painting has been acquired by numerous private collectors and has been featured in solo exhibition at galleries from Los Angeles (most recently Chimento Contemporary) to Santa Fe (Charlotte Jackson) to Basel, Switzerland (Galerie Katharina Krohn) and Milan, Italy (Fabbri Contemporary Art.) His work is included in the permanent collections of MOCA, Los Angeles; The Berlingieri Collection, Rome, Italy; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Panza Collection, Chiasso, Switzerland; Museo Cantonale, Lugano, Switzerland; Coleccion Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico; The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles and the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York. He is a 2008 recipient of a Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant.

Thurston continues to live and work in Los Angeles.