Label Text: Donald Willett was committed to abstraction, though he experimented with a number of contemporary styles. This facility with numerous painting movements was certainly invaluable to his students at Cranbrook (1962-68). In Red #1, Willett explores the “hard-edge” approach that removed texture, gesture, and emotional expression from painting.
The concentric circles recall patterns associated with abstract artists Jasper Johns, Victor Vasarely, and Kenneth Noland, but with important differences. Willett doesn’t use texture to emphasize the painted surface as an object in itself. His color choices do not create optical illusions of pulsating movement. Nor does he attempt to dissolve the distinction between painted form and background with stains that soak into
Amusingly, Willett’s approach reintroduces the illusion of space to a pattern—the circular bulls’ eye—that by 1968 had been claimed by abstract artists. Willett’s painted shadows give the appearance of a cylindrical target hanging in front of the abstract artist’s flat
field of red.