Will Insley


Will Insley (1929 – 2011) was an American abstract artist who dedicated 50 years to creating paintings, drawings, writings, models, and photomontages based on his concept for a visionary city, which he entitled ONECITY. Insley’s artwork has been exhibited in numerous museums in the United States and Europe, including solo exhibitions at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1984 and Museum of Modern Art, 1972. His work was included in Documenta 5 and 6 and is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Smithsonian Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and many others.


In the 1960s, after contemplating the integration of his architectural experience with his yearning for abstract painting, Insley focused on developing ONECITY, which became his focus for the next 50 years. He 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 the citizens of ONECITY. The city is governed though a democratic voting system, whereby residents vote on various matters. 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. Criminals are kept in an area known as the ‘Ninth Arena,’ where they can eliminate one another and are the object of ‘Theatres of Death.’

In order to convey the structures of his concept, Insley created detailed ink drawings of the buildings, paper mache structures which he photographed and reassembled to create vintage gelatin silver photographs of various sizes, and what he entitled ‘Wall Fragments,’ monumental acrylic paintings which represent remnants from the walls of ONECITY. In his view, these are “the ingredients to form a mythological context.” Through the wall fragments, drawings, and photomontages, Insley explored this abstract civilization created line by line.


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