THORNTON WILLIS



Born 1936 in Pensacola, Florida
Students Richard Brown, Sally Moluf and Jeff Spencer had an opportunity to help Thornton Willis and Gary Day print "Omaha Flash". An impression from this edition was included in a 1985 exhibition at the C.W. Woods Gallery at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Willis earned a B.A. in 1962. Often grouped in the 1980s with abstract painters Sean Scully and Elizabeth Murray, Willis used a zigzag shape to explore figure ground relationships in a series of oil stick drawings on paper and paintings consisting of layers of rolled acrylic paint that created multi-colored strata within each stripe or resulted in a multicolored background topped by a solid colored zigzag. Of the resulting pictorial tension, critic David Carrier observed in 1984, "Even from a distance, we glimpse Rothko's soft edges; even close up, we known that Stella's lines are straight edges. By contrast, when approached, Willis' hard-edged zigzags dissolve into a sequence of painterly layers whose gestural structure has no direct relation to that larger form which it defines."




Omaha Flash
1985; Lithograph on Rives BFK; sheet 22 x 30 (55.88 x 76.2); edition of 30