1950s-2000s: THE PROJECT OF ONECITY
In Will’s manuscripts, he defined ONECITY as:
… a labyrinthine structure buried in the central North American plains, spanning over 675 miles square between the Mississippi River and the Colorado Mountains. ONECITY is designed to hold 400 million people, and has very little to do with advanced city planning theories of the present or with the projected utopian golden cities of the future, but rather with the dark cities of mythology which exist outside of normal time in some strange location of extremity.
Insley’s map of ONECITY divides the structure into six different sectors:
(1) Abstract /Buildings/ >
Religious structures found in remote areas of the country’s wilderness; they were initiated before the development of ONECITY.
(2) The Outer Fields >
Stretches of countryside which are pulled into the center of the city by the building spirals of the Outer City.
(3) The Outer City >
A chain of buildings composed of four spiral arms which contain a possible 14,000 building units devoted to city living and working.
(4) The Inner Fields >
A 135 mile square of wasteland at the center of the Outer City structure.
(5) The Inner City >
An empty building which is not connected to the practical network of electricity, plumbing and communications and is bereft of all utilitarian systems; it holds analogous properties to the abstract /buildings/ outside of ONECITY.
(6) The Opaque Library >
Buried in the center of the Inner City, the Opaque Library holds the seed and soul of ONECITY. No one is allowed access to the space; however they may peer through the brief slits in its upper shell, which lets the viewer spy on the mystery. Some bits of information have been accidentally uncovered in our own time, and these pieces are viewed in facsimile as fragments of the Library walls.
THE EARLY 1960s: DEVELOPING ONECITY
In the 1960s, Insley created large scale modular paintings, exploring the meanings of the elementary geometric forms painted in bright acrylics. In the 2007 leading art publication, The New American Abstraction 1950-1970, Claudine Humblet writes the following on Will Insley's early series of paintings:
"The universe of fragments opened up between 1961 and 1963 with a multitude of cutout forms, flat shapes with four elements symmetrically arranged around a central opening (...) The shaping of the external form was to serve the path taken by art as "object". Insley's personal concentration in isolating his "object" from its context (architectural and pictorial) was to lead him in gradually, during an enthralling investigation of the inner field of painting, to rediscover the hidden significance of the "fragment". This became the sole tangible sign of the link between the "painting" (wall fragment) and architecture, the overall project of which was to be revealed only in the course of numerous stages inviting the viewer to decipher the secret meaning of the work presented.". In Insley's own words, "Between '61 and '63 I did my first series of shaped paintings, using cloverleaf forms around a central hole. My painting quickly shed all its "painting" aspects save its diagrammatic nature and moved into the mind in search of the source of its fragments."
As Insley moved into 1967, he started to consider the lost civilization. It is during this time that Will moved from his more painterly wall fragments of the early 1960s, to his 1968 Ruler Series.
By the end of the 1960s, Will began to outline the basic ratio theories which influence the creation of his later 1990s Wall Fragments.
THE 1970s: DISCOVERING ARCHITECTURAL ABSTRACTION
While developing his late 1960s Ruler Series, Will started to discover the abstract /buildings/ outside of ONECITY. Through models, drawings and photomontages, Will numbered and captured each /building/ in wilderness. In his unpublished manuscript, Insley writes:
“The complex formal vocabulary of ONECITY has its origin in a series of /buildings/ located in remote areas of the countries wilderness. A parallel can be drawn between their nature and mythological considerations and they could thus be regarded as religious structures.”
The abstract architectural qualities of the /buildings/ brought Will back to revisit the early Wall Fragments. In his 1975 series, Insley developed a basis of subdivisions subjecting the fragments to arithmetic progressions as well as mirror-image inversions upon which the form, interior design, and the color of the fragments depended.
THE EARLY 1980s: ELABORATING ON THE ONECITY STRUCTURE
As Insley moved into the 1980s, he began to conceive and create ONECITY through elaborate ink drawings. Many of these drawings pull diagrammatic language from his school years studying formal architecture, while incorporating the abstract mythological visions seen in his abstract /buildings/ outside of the city center.