Willy Bo Richardson | Number 1
Oil on Canvas | 1999
My Number 1:
When I was in graduate school at Pratt Institute, the New York art elites had agreed that painting was dead. It was an odd time to be studying painting. There was a guilt by association, and I had been implicated in the crime of not being intelligent enough to make installation art. I did not react against the times. I sought to understand what was happening on a global scale while at the same time, not let go of my love for painting.
In 1998 I had seen Robert Irwin’s scrim installation at the Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea. I gave it a good 10 minutes, before I started to see anything of value, and when my eyes finally rested without object I found myself staring into vast space, with an infinite horizon line. In that moment, I realized I wanted to influence the space of a room with my art.
I felt that even if I wanted to build an environment that influenced the viewer phenomenologically, I still wanted to do it with the best tools, and the best tools to capture a moment in time, for me, was with paint.
Creative cycles don’t always match up with the calendar year. This realization came half-way through my thesis. I turned what I was working on to the wall and started over. I needed to rethink what painting meant to me. I began with proportion, and painted vertical lines as a measuring device. In subsequent paintings, I worked towards what a proportion of human scale. In later works, I began adding color. This evolved into my current practice.