The 1960s was a period when Insley challenged the accepted formal limits of art; a result was his subsequent fascination with modular, repetitive structures.
The need for discipline in spatial organization manifested itself throughout Insley’s career, and led to his lifetime project, ONECITY, to which he dedicated 50 years. Drawings, paintings and a site-specific specific installation from ONECITY were presented by the Guggenheim Museum, NYC in the 1984 solo exhibition “The Opaque Civilization.” The last pages of this publication include later paintings from this period. In the 2007 leading art publication, The New American Abstraction 1950-1970, Claudine Humblet writes the following:
“A chance encounter with a work of Frank Stella’s Moroccan period, seen at Richard Bellamy’s Green Gallery in 1963, and the astonished admiration it caused were the factors triggering a new awakening. The idea of the need to “think as an architect” resurfaced. Insley succumbed to the fascination of the repetitive structure of Stella’s painting with its alternating diagonal stripes of yellow and green, the “clarity of Liquitex color,” the unity of texture, and the “absolute structure of the image.”
“Insley’s complex effort to explore unusual forms, accompanied by the discipline of spatial organization—the precise field in which the architectural vocation could still assert itself—is eloquently expressed in these works of 1963–64. Insley explored freedom of form in relation to the innovative concepts of his time, and followed Stellaby asserting in 1964 that “the painting is an object” (“The painting is the object itself”).”
In Insley’s own words, “between ‘61 and ‘63 I did my first series of shaped paintings, using cloverleaf forms around a central hole. […] My painting quickly shed all its ‘painting’ aspects save its diagrammatic nature and moved into the mind in search of the source of its fragments.” The paintings from this series are modular and can be taken apart and put back together. The colors are flat acrylic stripes of primaries or tones and reflect Insley's growing preoccupation with the structure of space and the geometry of color. Two series from this period consist reflect other explorations which Insley did not develop: the black paintings of various shapes, both symmetrical and non-symmetrical, and the "rulers" of various sizes, some monumental (both single and in the shape of a abstract gate).
STRUCTURAL MODELS & WORKS ON PAPER
The structural models illustrate the various steps of the creative process, to highlight the artist’s meticulous process as well as his creative imagination. The 1960s was a period when Insley reevaluated the formal limits of his art and moved in a different direction. At the time, he explored the potential of modular and repetitive structures in various media. He started by drawing, painting and collaging meticulous scale structural models which replicated the future structure of the painting.
Will Insley © WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC