Lance Esplund on Willis

"With each new surprising series, Willis's paintings get better and better--more direct, dynamic, and hardboiled. And this powerful new grouping which evolved out of (earlier) interlocking geometries...reminds us that he works not just in series, but cyclically.

Willis deals in the fusion of opposites: translucency and opacity; expansion and contraction; open and closed; tension and release. His paintings explore beginnings, first steps, and the building blocks of picture-making--the progression of point to line to plane; and of movement arrested in the plane...and whole planes of scratchy color churn with a flurry of brushwork, reminding us that flat color--vibrating, pulsing--needn't sit there inactively."


2013  Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY

2012  Sarah Moody Gallery, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

2011  Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY; catalogue essay Lance Esplund, with documentary film by Michael Feldman and Vered Lieb

2010  Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ

2009  Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY; catalogue essay by James Panero; with documentary film by Michael Feldman

2007  Sideshow Gallery, New York, NY

2006  Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY

2005  “Raising the Bar: James Little & Thornton Willis”, Sideshow Gallery,Brooklyn, NY

1993  Andre Zarre Gallery, New York, NY

1990  Twining Gallery, New York, NY

1988  Gallerie Nordenhake, Stockholm, Sweden Pensacola Museum of Fine Art, Pensacola, FL

1986  Oscarsson-Siegeltuch, New York, NY Millerville University Gallery, Millerville, PA

1985  Gloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FL C.W. Woods Gallery, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS

1984  Oscarsson Hood Gallery, New York, NY

1983  Gallerie Nordenhake, Malmo, Sweden Engstrom Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden

1982  Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo, NY Galerie Gonet, Lausanne, Switzerland Eason Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Phoenix Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

1981  Marianne Deson Gallery, Chicago, IL Oscarsson Hood Gallery, New York, NY

1980  Oscarsson Hood Gallery, New York, NY Gallerie Nordenhake, Malmo, Sweden

1979  55 Mercer Street Gallery, New York, NY

1971  New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA

1970  Simonne Stern Gallery, New Orleans, LA

1970  Paley and Lowe, New York, NY

1967-8  Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.


Museum of Modern Art, MOMA New York, NY

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C

Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo,

NY Denver Museum of Fine Arts, Denver, CO

Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC

Museum of Art, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY

Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University

The Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

The Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR

Museum of Broadcasting, William Paley gift, NYC

Musee A La Chaux-de-fonds, Switzerland

Malmo Museum of Fine Art, Kunsthalle, Malmo, Sweden

The Power Institute of Fine Arts, Sidney, Australia

Chase Manhattan Collection, New York City

Southeast Banking Corporation, Miami, FL and Southwest,Los Angeles, CA

The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

Illinois University Museum, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK

Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR

Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC

South Dakota Art Museum, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan UT

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA

Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ

Hospital Corporation of North America, Nashville, TE

Inter-Metro Industries Corporation, Princeton, NJ

Frito-Lay Corporation, Dallas,

The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Boston MA

The Marine Midland Bank Collection, Rochester, NY

The Edward Albee Foundation, NY

Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY

Wagner College, University Collection, Staten Island, NYC

Rich Products Corporation, Buffalo, NY

Commodities Corporation, Princeton, NJ

The Erling Neby Collection, Hovikodden, Norway



2001  The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Painting Fellowship

1991  Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Fellowship

1984  National Endowment for the Arts, Printmaking Fellowship

1980  National Endowment for the Arts, Painting Fellowship

1979  John Simon Guggenheim M