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Dancers in the Sun © Courtesy of the artist & Elizabeth Harris Gallery

529 W.20th St.
New York, NY 10011
March 14th, 2013 - April 13th, 2013
Opening: March 14th, 2013 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Tue-Sat 11-6; Summer Hours: July - Tue-Fri 11-6; August - open by appointment


The Elizabeth Harris Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Thornton Willis. The exhibition will be up from March 14 through April 13, 2013, with an opening reception on Thursday March 14th from 6-8 pm. This will be the artists fourth one-person exhibition at the Elizabeth Harris Gallery and Willis continues in “Steps” to celebrate painting that reaffirm the ideology of great abstraction. Close reading of the surfaces reveal highly gestural sensibilities tempered by an intellectually rigorous reductionism. A color catalog of the show is available with excerpts by the artist on his work.

“…What I am after is a dynamic special relationship between figure and ground, or sometimes to charge the picture plane with impacted energy so as to make it an undeniable, absolutely compelling image…” Thornton Willis, 2013

Exploring the possibilities of the grid since the late 1960’s, Willis became a member of the Third Generation of Abstract Expressionists, with his “Wall” paintings where he worked in a unique wet-on-wet method creating linear colored bands across the surface plane. 

Willis now utilizes the line to ascribe form; forms that literally “step up” or “step down” as architectonically as his earlier “Wall” paintings did- but alluding to fractured building profiles and the modern cityscape. These two approaches, these two dualities; of line over form and form over line, have dominated Willis’s thinking and this latest show at Elizabeth Harris, with its intense color palette, presents some of his strongest statements to date.

Also featured are related, though materially different, process-oriented three-dimensional constructs or assemblage.  Created in the spring and summer of 2012, Willis explores “Steps” of visual context and perception using canvas and paint as well as found objects and wood. The levels, layers or steps, in these assemblages provide insight into similar thought processes and decisions made in the paintings.

Thornton's abstractions are a blend of geometry and intuition. For his latest series, he pares down his forms and used strong color contrasts to energize the tension between figure and ground.  Thornton brings his figure-ground dynamic to full relief with these wall sculptures constructed of found wood.

James Panero

Thornton Willis has exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe since 1969, and is in most major public and corporate collections.