A Portrait of An American Painter: Thornton Willis
An Independent Film by Michael Feldman
& Exhibition of New Paintings by Thornton Willis
Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York City
March 19 through April 18, 2009
New York, NY. March 17, 2009/PR Newswire/ — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stood in his studio and called him "Maestro" and purchased two large canvasses. Michael Ovitz hung his seminal painting in his main conference room in Hollywood. British and Swedish aristocrats have his work, as do CEO's and major corporations. They all found their way to the studio of painter Thornton Willis.
Hardly a household name, Willis lives and paints in relative obscurity in the same loft he has worked in for almost 40 years in New York City's Soho. In Art and Antiques, James Panero described his work as "Edgy, bending and sticking out into our space..." and quotes Jed Perl, critic for The New Republic, as calling the work "wonderfully persuasive". The new Lattice Series combines the edgy and the minimal, gesture and "luminous color".
With work in most major museums, the elusive and exclusive Willis has always been a maverick, even when his work was most acclaimed. At a major event at the Museum of Modern Art, he walked out and went home, preferring the solitude of the studio to the gleaming lights of celebrity events.
Willis has roots in the Deep South, and took part in the early days of the Civil Rights movement joining the Reverend Martin Luther King's march in Montgomery. As Willis says, "American Abstract Expressionism is absolutely connected to the amount of freedom we enjoy in this country. That's what makes it important and lasting. Like American Jazz."
At a time when America is experiencing a crisis of confidence, it is time to celebrate our best minds and honest cultural heroes who have kept the standard high. It is time for a documentary on this highly influential artist, and "painter's painter."
The independent film "A Portrait of an American Painter: Thornton Willis", directed by Michael Feldman and filmed by Antonio Cisneros debuts on March 19, 2009 at the opening of the Lattice Series by the artist at the Elizabeth Harris Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, NY 10011.