New York

Will Insley

Fischbach Gallery Downtown

That the formalist approach has tended to obscure the visionary role of the artist is a point of contention with Will Insley. Explicitly rejecting the surface values of pure color, form, line—“art for the sake of art,” Insley seeks to penetrate behind this “facade” to uncover a personal mythology, the inner “dream space” which is for him the content of art. Insley transmits the information gathered from his “journey” into interior space through a collection of poems, fragmented musings, diagrams, and architectural drawings compiled over the past 11 years and presented in book format. Ostensibly the book records, or rather translates, the evidence of the future Onecity—a single metropolis housing all Americans within an area of 160,000 square miles in the central plains. Yet it would be a mistake to confuse Insley’s blueprints with Sant’ Elia’s designs for a Futurist city or Le Corbusier’s City for Three Million. Insley’s work is more a fantasy, “a series of dream images,” than a constructive project; he presents himself as an archaeologist discovering the remains of a future civilization rather than as a planner of urban utopia. Thus, while there is a certain science fiction plausibility to Insley’s vision with its jet-tube transport system and its complex war games, the whole seems more a means of explicating a personal “religion” than an end in itself. Actually Insley refers to his work as a “Bible of Civilization.”

The book itself serves as a visual trace of the “journey into the future and return with information” which is an investigation of private mental space, a passage beyond the everyday world of the present into the inner structure. In a sense, Onecity becomes a symbol as well as a manifestation of the artist’s spiritual exploration, both in its spatial configuration and in its existence in the future, a time beyond the present. The center of Onecity, its “mental focus,” is the opaque library where information on the future is collected. To enter the library one must travel in time and space, removing oneself from the physical present, in repetition of the artist’s inner voyage. The outer or functional city reveals Insley’s ideal order in its square spiral progression, while the horizontality of the stratified structures reflects Insley’s preoccupation with the dialogue between earth and sky. More important are the ceremonial buildings or temples which lie hidden in the wilderness surrounding the city. Consisting of ordered convolutions of channels, ridges, caverns, these buildings set up sequences of space suggesting physical models of the labyrinths of the mind. The passage through these spaces becomes a ritual imitation of the journey into interior space. It provides the myth for the religion, illustrating the belief through tangible experience.

In this age of cynicism and demythologization, it is easy to flippantly dismiss any mysticism as “heavy” or overly idealistic. Yet for the most part Insley’s humor and poetry avoid the weighty seriousness and hyperbole of the evangelist. Insley is not really a preacher. His book is more an affirmation of the importance of personal content in art than a dogma for it.

––Susan Heinemann