Initialed and dated (at lower right) TW 80 1980
Black Wedge dates to 1980 when Willis was working on his Wedge series. This series really cemented the artist’s reputation both nationally and internationally. In 1979, the year before he painted this work, Willis was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for painting. The year of this painting he had an exhibition at the Oscarsson Hood Gallery (his gallery from 1980-1986) and he was included in the important 7 Young Americans Exhibition alongside Sean Scully at the fabled Sidney Janis Gallery.
A third generation Abstract Expressionist, Thornton Willis has been in the New York City art scene since 1967. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, Willis served in the Marines for three years before studying at Auburn University and later receiving his MFA from the University of Alabama in 1966. While at the University of Alabama he came under the sway of visiting artist Theodoros Stamos and Melville Price, his professor, who had been part of the Cedar Bar crowd of Abstract Expressionists in New York City. Other influences on Willis have been the geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian and Frank Stella and the expressionistic work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
Willis’s work has tended to be grouped in decade long periods including his Slat Series of 1967-1973, Lyrical Abstraction, the Wedge Series 1970’s – the early 1980’s, Triangle Paintings c. 1990-2000 and more recently his Lattice and Step paintings. The artist is an accomplished colorist. Even the deceptively simple blackish blue palette of Black Wedge attests to Willis’s ability. A contemporary and friend of fellow artists Richard Serra, Sean Scully and James Little, Thornton Willis’s work is found in many leading public and private collections including Aldrich Museum of Art, CT, Albright-Knox, Denver Museum of Art, Guggenheim, High Museum, MOMA and The Whitney as well as London’s well-known Saatchi Collection.