In the late 1960s, Will Insley envisioned the concept of ONECITY, a 67 square mile architectural labyrinth buried in the central North American plains. The decades long project consists of drawings, paintings, and photo-collages. The drawings represent architectural renderings of abstract buildings that surround ONECITY as vacant ruins to be abandoned after they are built. They were originally shown in his exhibition at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, NYC in 1984. The acrylic paintings, also named ‘Wall Fragments’, represent remnants from the walls of ONECITY. The photomontages further the visualization of this civilization. ONECITY was designed as an imaginary city to house 400 million people of the time, considered the entire population of the United States. During the era of ONECITY the outer rim of the country is inhabitable, possibly due to environmental devastation.
During the 40 years he developed ONECITY, Insley established not only an architectural layout consisting of over 14,000 outer city square buildings, each two and half miles wide, but an entire sociological order for its citizens. No visible leader exists, but a democratic voting system occurs every day. Instead of a vertical religious order, the inhabitants worship the horizontal line as a mythical space between earth and sky. The center of ONECITY holds the Opaque Library, “the seed and soul” which houses information and secrets, not accessible to the populace. Through his wall fragments, drawings and photomontage, Insley explores an abstract civilization, created line by line using logic, dimension and spatial theories in combination with interrelationship of people living in a futuristic environment.
The large scale ink on paper drawings represent architectural renderings of abstract buildings which surround ONECITY as vacant ruins to be abandoned after they are built. Insley created over 40 drawings of abstract buildings of these intricate structures that are only partially above ground, originally shown in his exhibition at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, NYC in 1984. Most drawings are in black and colored ink and prove an extraordinary mastery of the medium and vision.
The ‘Wall Fragments’ are tri-dimensional acrylic paintings on masonite which represent remnants from the walls of ONECITY. Some paintings have white backgrounds with an apparent maze of colored or black lines reminiscent of aerial maps but also of tension lines; others are block of flat color. They range from medium to monumental in size, and their presence in the space recreates the civilization Insley envisioned. In his view, “if there are wall fragments, there must be buildings; if buildings – a city, if a city – a civilization, if a civilization – a religion; -- all the ingredients to form a mythological context."
The vintage photo-collages of various scales aim to provide more referential authenticity to ONECITY by integrating it within the known geography of North America and with the markers of the natural world. The photographs represent paper-mache scale models that Insley created and subsequently photographed in order to convey how the imaginary city would be viewed from the surface of the Earth, since most of the massive structure is underground.
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 wanted to “renounce art” within its accepted formal limits; one of the results was his subsequent fascination with modular, repetitive structures.
Will Insley © WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC