Thornton Willis: Stripped down guts and lived wisdom

Blogger/artist Steven Alexander reports that,

“anyone who is a lover of painting will inevitably feel a rush of recognition — that increasingly rare sense of being in the presence of an authentic voice. At once familiar and challenging, this rich new body of work is like the visual equivalent of a great Muddy Waters record that takes the traditional 12-bar blues, strips it down, opens it up, and invests it with an abundance of guts and lived wisdom. Now well into his 70s, Willis is in peak form, achieving here an important breakthrough that exudes momentum and clarity. Compared with the complexity of his previous triangular cluster configurations, the new paintings, which revisit a configuration he touched upon 30 years ago, have a much simpler pictorial space consisting of interlacing horizontal and vertical color bands on a solid color field. By simplifying the image, Thornton has cleared the way for a new emphasis on color and material — acidic and nuanced color relations glowing from luscious layered oil surfaces with plenty of ragged edges and pentimenti.”

In conjunction with the show at Elizabeth Harris, Michael Feldman’s documentary, “A Portrait of an American Painter: Thornton Willis,” debuts.

Check out James Kalm’s video of Willis’s opening at Sideshow Gallery in 2007.

Thornton Willis: The Lattice Paintings,” Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 18.


  1. This show is a knockout. I hope a lot of people will see it.

  2. For those of you interested in a video tour of the latest Thornton opening, with a great interview, stay tuned, one’s “in the can” and I hope to post it in the next week or two. Thanks JK

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