Gerald Williams - AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN New York Friday, February 8, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago

  • Exhibited

    Chicago, Kavi Gupta, Gerald Williams, September 9, 2017 — December 2, 2017

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1941 in Chicago, Illinois
    Lives and works in Woodlawn, Chicago, IL

    1976 MFA, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
    1969 BA, Chicago Teachers College, Chicago, IL

    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: Tate Modern, London, UK; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL; The Broad, Los Angeles, CA
    Selected public collections: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, New York; DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL.

    Gerald Williams was a co-founder of the AfriCOBRA artist collective which formed on the South side of Chicago in 1967 and later on became the definitive visual expression of the Black Arts Movement. An acronym for “African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists”, the group, which is still active today, set out to investigate whether there was or should be such a thing as a culturally-specific black art.

    Over time, Williams’ work has evolved into polyrhythmic representations resting on the threshold between figuration and abstraction – a junction which Williams dubbed “mimesis at mid-point.” He has explained that people think mimesis is the act of copying reality, but that the true goal of mimes is to communicate the core of things through creative manifestations that are universally meaningful. In his own words, “mimesis is probably the most fascinating principle, because it’s not clear what it means…at its root, it means to mimic or to copy, to imitate. But clearly that’s what African and Oceanic and most indigenous art forms are. They’re recreations of the world, in most cases, human beings or the human, transformation of that into the brain and then ultimately in some concrete object. And then in that they are depicting personalities or visions or some kind of spiritual connection. How that’s done by 20th century, 21st century people is open for exploration. Because when you reduce something to the state of a phantasm, then you’re stripping it to its bare bones.”

    With the brightly painted colors inspired by 60’s and 70’s fashion, and lettered abstractions in staccato alluding to the prevalence of text in Chicago’s street art, Abner & Alleane, 1975, is an essential moment illuminating Williams’ greater practice. The inherent imitation present in the painted medium is elegantly negotiated by Williams’ ability to imbue the various painterly elements with enough independent meaning so they exist separately from their represented reality. This work, which it has been noted, is a portrait of his parents, not only exemplifies the source of AfriCOBRA’s common mission to uplift a struggling community, but also demonstrates Williams’ desire to make universal that which was, at its core, personal.


Abner & Alleane

indistinctly signed lower left
acrylic on canvas
33 1/2 x 30 in. (85.1 x 76.2 cm.)
Executed in 1975.

Estimate On Request


New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019