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Will Insley Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 6 Apr 2010

Biographical History

Will Insley (1929-2011) was an American abstract painter and sculptor.

Insley was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and lived in New York City for most of his life. He received his BFA in Architecture from Amherst College and his MFA in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Instead of using his background in architecture to construct buildings, he devoted his life to creating conceptual and abstract art during the minimalist movement of the 20th century.

Insley has shown exhibits in numerous museums and galleries in the United States and Europe, including a solo exhibition at Guggenheim Museum in 1984 and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1971. In addition to his visual art, Insley wrote a comprehensive series of published and unpublished essays, reviews, and poetry on abstract architecture. His most famous series of works, which he dedicated 50 years to realize, was his conceptual civilization called ONECITY, a labyrinthine structure located in the central North American plains.

He received the award of the National Foundation on Arts and Humanities in 1967 and a Guggenheim fellowship in 1969, and also taught at the University of North Carolina and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Since his death in 2011 his estate has been exclusively managed by Westwood Gallery in New York City.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Will Insley Papers contain correspondence, exhibition materials, financial and legal documents, memorabilia, and writings.

Correspondence, making up the bulk of the collection, contains both business and personal letters, cards, and notes to Insley as well as copies of his outgoing correspondence.

Exhibition materials contains programs, invitations, and posters for Insley's exhibitions.

Financial/legal documents contains loan receipts, a money order, other receipts, and a rental contract.

Memorabilia includes clippings about Insley, event invitations and tickets, and other miscellaneous material.

Writings contains Insley's unidentified drafts, notes, and teaching material.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged alphabetically.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Insley, Will, 1929-2011.


Art, Abstract.
Art, American.
Artists -- United States.
Sculptors -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Manuscripts for publication.
Programs (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Will Insley Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Will Insley, 1967-1968.

Table of Contents


Exhibition materials

Financial/legal documents