new-york

Thornton Willis

Oscarsson Hood Gallery

In true modernist spirit, Thornton Willis is content to return to basics. With a panache that is astonishing, he brings the practice of abstract painting right up-to-date by reminding us of the original meaning of cliché: a template used by printers for often-used formulations. Taking a device he has been using for quite a few years to give direction to the paint on his canvases—a wedge shape—he has developed a series of works on paper from which lithographs have been made. The conceit is superb, a witty reconciliation of the reproducibility of prints with the singularity of painting—although I must confess the joke was spoiled somewhat when I remembered that Jasper Johns has devoted a fair amount of attention to the same problem over the years. In fact the joke turns sourer the longer one considers Johns’ achievement. Willis just doesn’t seem to have grasped the complexity of options open

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