William T. Williams: Things Unknown Paintings, 1968 - 2017

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

100 11th Ave, New York

April 7 – June 3, 2017

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is pleased to present its first solo exhibition for abstract painter William T. Williams (American, b.1942). Things Unknown, Paintings, 1968-2017 is scheduled to be on view from April 7 through June 3, 2017. The exhibition has been curated to present an overview of the artist’s most major painting series. Twenty-eight paintings will be included, starting with his late-1960s bold geometric abstractions like Harlem Angels (1968) to recent gold metallic fields with lyrical lines like Evidence (2016). For five decades, Williams has been committed to an abstraction that derives its force from productive tensions among colors and forms. While he has consistently tested the limits of his earlier styles and developed new approaches, his meticulous attention to the process of art-making has remained constant.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated color catalogue featuring an interview with the artist by Courtney J. Martin, an assistant professor in the department of History of Art and Architecture at Brown University and the newly appointed Deputy Director and Chief Curator at Dia Art Foundation. In her interview with Williams in his Connecticut studio, Williams states: “To me, painting is a way of marking time; it gives meaning to my life. It is a way of trying to communicate. I live. I existed. I created. I think painting has to be self-validating. The process of being an artist has to be self-validating. And it took time for me to get to that. Withdrawing from the art world for a long time was, in a sense, the best thing that I could have done as an artist.”

From the outset of his career, William T. Williams’ art has been characterized by bold color and daring compositions that paid homage to and challenged the abstraction that had come before it. He emerged at a time when abstract expressionism was in decline, while pop art, color field painting, and minimalism were on the rise. Concurrent with this aesthetic transition were social and political transformations that saw artists, intellectuals, and activists challenging the exclusionary practices of New York’s white- and male-dominated art institutions. These critiques came in multiple forms, including an approach to art that favored figural representation embedded in a politics of struggle and an assertion of identities misrepresented by or excluded from American culture. Such images were a necessary correction to a history of omission and caricature, but they risked being received by the art establishment in a way that affirmed its tendency to ignore work by abstract artists who were also African American.