“Thornton Willis: Interviews and Essays” is the first book in a series on great American artists. We launch the series with master painter, Thornton Willis, whose influential work has inspired artists and viewers of art for over 50 years. The book includes 170 full color plates of paintings and sketches, many in public and private collections, as well as rare images of working drawings, and the artist’s studio in Soho. Contributing essayists are renowned art critic James Panero, Executive Editor The New Criterion and Lance Esplund, noted critic for the Wall Street Journal and other publications, an interview by Geoform’s Julie Karabenick, while professor Vittorio Colaizzi writes about the artist’s most recent work at the Elizabeth Harris gallery.
Thornton Willis was born in the rural South and came to New York City in 1967. He was active in the Civil Rights movement while attending the University of Alabama for his masters. His commitment to individual freedom can be found in his paintings and personal writings. In New York City, he became friends with artists Dan Christenson, Richard Serra, Alan Saret, Neil Jenney, Sean Scully, and James Little. His breakthrough “Slat” paintings led to his first solo shows and critical acclaim. He solidified a growing reputation in the early 1980s producing his emblematic “Wedge” paintings. Our book reveals the dramatic turn of events as the artist repudiated fame based on the repetition of his earlier themes, and the resultant outpouring of paintings reflecting emotional growth, a mastery of materials, and a desire to heroically depict the spacetime structure of the universe, the invisible stage upon which all human actions occur.
In Willis’s paintings I discover painting as character, in a form that only painting supplies.
Joseph Masheck, Art In America
With each new surprising series, Willis’s paintings get better and better… more direct and dynamic.
Lance Esplund, contributor on art for The Wall Street Journal
These are seductive, generous paintings that repay extended attention.
Nathan Kernan, Art In America
The way that his (Willis) paintings engage with you as the viewer…is completely contemporary… He is a master of what he does. He is at the top of his game.
James Panero, Executive Editor, The New Criterion
…Willis’s brazenness lies, again not as a cheap thrill, but as a critical engagement with abstract painting’s ongoing history. This is of course a property of Willis’s entire oeuvre, a property that gives him a central place in the problems and ambitions of painting since the mid 20th century.
Vittorio Colaizzi , Ph.D., Old Dominion University