For more than 40 years Williams has chronicled current and historical events, interspersing pictorial narratives with personal anecdotes and fictional characters in order to create paintings about the diverse experiences of Black Americans. With boldness and humor, he tackles the darkest of subjects including, but not limited to, police brutality, lynching, slavery, mass incarceration, and other realms of racial oppression. Williams uses cultural criticism to form new creation myths, retelling the history of America from fresh and cosmic perspectives.
Peter Williams lives in Wilmington, DE and is Senior Professor in the Fine Arts Department at the University of Delaware. He earned his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. His paintings are held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Howard University, Washington DC; Davis Museum at Wellesley College, MA; CCH Pounder Collection, New Orleans; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; the Mott-Warsh Collection in Flint, MI; The Bunker/Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Palm Beach; Jorge Perez Collection, Miami; and the McEvoy Foundation, San Francisco, among others.
Peter Williams: Black Universe at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
Originally scheduled to open in March, Luis de Jesus Los Angeles’s second solo show with artist Peter Williams is now opening at last. The show will run concurrent to Williams’s solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the art space Trinosophes.
Peter Williams: Black Universe is a joint exhibition that presents Williams’ figurative and abstract paintings. Williams’ visually compelling works intertwine art historical references, allegories, current events, and personal life experiences. In this two-part exhibition, which presents more than two dozen paintings, the artist addresses difficult social issues, such as racial discrimination and climate change, through symbolic imagery, grotesque figures, and vibrant compositions.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Laura Krifka's painting Copy Cat (2017) and Peter Williams's painting Head Trip by Black Folks to Another Planet (2019) were acquired by the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts in San Francisco, CA. The McEvoy Foundation for the Arts (MFA) presents exhibitions and events that engage, expand, and challenge themes in the McEvoy Family Collection. Established in 2017, MFA’s vision is to create an open, intimate, and welcoming setting for private contemplation and community discussion about art and culture.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter Williams's painting Cuban Rocketry Station (2019) was acquired by the Jorge M. Pérez Collection for its new private museum El Espacio 23, which opened its doors in Miami, FL in December 2019.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Caitlin Cherry's painting Solar Asian Doll (2018) and Peter Williams's painting Topiary Diary (2018) were acquired by the Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH. Originally founded as an independent nonprofit by the Pizzuti family to share exhibitions of contemporary art from their private collection, the organization and its beautifully renovated building were recently acquired by the Columbus Museum of Art.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter Williams's painting We traveled to distant worlds (2019) was acquired by the Davis Museum at Wellesly College in Massachusetts, USA. This is the second work by Peter Williams that the Museum has acquired for its collection. One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine art museums in the United States, the Museum was founded more than 120 years ago by the first President of Wellesley College. The Davis collections, which span global history from antiquity to the present and include masterpieces from almost every continent, are housed today in an extraordinary museum building, designed by Rafael Moneo, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In addition to dynamic presentations of the permanent collections, and installations that support specific coursework and research interests, the Davis hosts a rotating series of engaging temporary exhibitions and programs organized to inform, delight, and challenge its visitors.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter Williams's painting The Sudanese Market (2019) and June Edmond's painting Sign of Life Flag (2019) were acquired by the Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH. Originally founded as an independent nonprofit by the Pizzuti family to share exhibitions of contemporary art from their private collection, the organization and its beautifully renovated building were recently acquired by the Columbus Museum of Art.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter Williams's painting Lost Flag of New Africa (2019) and June Edmond's painting A Tisket (2018) were acquired by the Davis Museum at Wellesly College in Massachusetts, USA. One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine art museums in the United States, the Museum was founded more than 120 years ago by the first President of Wellesley College. The Davis collections, which span global history from antiquity to the present and include masterpieces from almost every continent, are housed today in an extraordinary museum building, designed by Rafael Moneo, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In addition to dynamic presentations of the permanent collections, and installations that support specific coursework and research interests, the Davis hosts a rotating series of engaging temporary exhibitions and programs organized to inform, delight, and challenge its visitors.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter Williams's painting A Foolish Trick (2018) was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a gift of The Williams Legacy Foundation, Inc. The painting was first exhibited in Williams' first solo exhibition with the Gallery, River of Styx on view from October 20 - December 21, 2018.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to announce Peter Williams: Black Universe, the artist's second solo exhibition with the Gallery, on view from July 9 through October 10, 2020. This exhibition* is held concurrent to, and is an extension of, his solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the alternative space Trinosophes.
"So, I think about Peter’s paintings. I think about their fundamental contradiction. They are an exquisite gutting. He paints, with reverence, the eviscerated body of monumental oppression. His artistic kin include Grünewald, Kahlo, Salcedo and Marshall. I think about what Peter refuses us—illusion and comfort. And I think and about what he gives us—empathy, and a deep love for painting..."
"Making things allows one to be a member of a group: of ideas, forms, awareness, sensitivities, none of which is ever in isolation. You can always feel the spirit of those fleeting thoughts and mega-disciplines which keep you in focus and feeling alive while having an exploration in paint. I have discussions with myself; I become the Other."
Artist Peter Williams created The Death of George Floyd, a 48-inch-by-60-inch oil on canvas in response to Floyd’s Memorial Day death, which has invigorated civil disobedience by drawing attention to centuries of institutionalized racism. “My work has always had a political ethos, it comes out of my self-awareness as a black American. This work is a compendium of modernist form and the politics of right now. I had been working, shifting the work toward a more abstract base. I had always been a figurative narrative painter,” said Williams.
Peter Williams doesn’t make things easy for the viewer, and why should he? Peter Williams is a painter who paints both abstractly and figuratively, with a jaunty, cake frosting palette as the main connection between the two approaches. I first saw his work in the 2002 Whitney Biennial (March 7–May 26, 2002), curated by Lawrence R. Rinder, Chrissie Iles, Christian Paul, and Debra Singer.
If comedy equals tragedy plus time, artist Peter Williams is defying the mathematics of the aphorism in his newest paintings. In his works, Williams compresses time and expands painterly space to extract a subversive sense of humor from acts of violence and oppression, even in the midst of their perpetuation. “Peter Williams: Incarceration,” a show of his work on view at the Cressman Center, tackles themes of black incarceration — both historical and contemporary — through paintings that sing with exuberant form and hyperbolic color. The overall effect is, by turns, shocking, joyful and unnerving.
From December 5–8, the 17th annual NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) art fair took place at Ice Palace Studios, focused on supporting new voices in the contemporary art community. Fairgoers were also treated to solo showings of artists like Agnieszka Brzezanska (BWA Warszawa), Guadalupe Maravilla (Jack Barrett), Ariana Papademetropoulos (Soft Opening), Aaron Gilbert (Lulu), and Peter Williams (Luis De Jesus Los Angeles).
8. Luis De Jesus Los Angeles A new series of works by Peter Williams on view at Luis de Jesus’s booth is not to miss. Within the busy patterns and cheerful color palette, Williams tackles issues of race and representation, power dynamics, and oppression in his dizzying tableaux. Booth F17, Pier 90
A Los Angeles Presence: Ramekin may not be in L.A. anymore, but other dealers hailing from the city were out in force. Kayne Griffin Corcoran sold a Llyn Foulkes work for $60,000 and three Mika Tajima pieces for $7,000 each. A Mary Corse painting was on reserve for a price around $400,000. Luis De Jesus sold two Peter Williams paintings for around $20,000 to $30,000 each.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds (2018) is subdivided by a tree whose branches spread across the canvas, filling it with foliage painted by means of closely packed green dots, patches of sky denoted by blue dots, and passages of red dots interspersed throughout. Among the branches are six birds and three human faces, two of the faces in profile are barely evident, the third, fully articulated face, looks out from the trunk’s base.
Peter Williams’ pointillist painting technique, crowding thousands of tiny dots of enamel color within pencil-drawn contours of people, places and things, is not the same as the celebrated one pioneered more than a century ago by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. His look yields a very different feel from the measured, careful tone of those French Postimpressionists. Brash color is plainly important to the 14 Williams paintings in his Los Angeles debut at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, most (though not all) of which explode with pointillist dots.
We carried onward with excitement to Luis De Jesus gallery where we were met by the work of Peter Williams for his opening, River of Styx. The show’s array of colorful, multi-figurative, narrative pieces was seemingly bright and cheery, yet it alluded to a heavier history. With the political climate so out of wack, Williams’s images address topics quiet poignantly. I had the treat of talking to the delightful artist as he explained that his paintings composed of many marks, were in fact not pointillism.
News media, despite respective biases, seem to agree in the description of contemporary politics as “complicated” and “divided.” While accurate, this semantic admission fails to demonstrate the accountability of the status quo. Soul Recordings, a group exhibition currently on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, examines ideas around representation and meaning amid the persisting trauma of colonial histories.
The opening movement of “Soul Recordings” is a polka-dot revelry, a bedazzled wake-up call, a cymbal-clap altarpiece, a plastic-bead trumpet blast, and a monster of a skull-ringed, glitter-bombed orchestral chord breaking in fuchsia major. This is Ebony G. Patterson’s heartbreaking and eminently Instagrammable mixed media installation work, and the poignant grandeur of its regal and folkloric memento mori is alert and ineffable.
Soul Recordings, at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. A group exhibition featuring works by artists such as Lisa C. Soto, Deborah Roberts, Caitlin Cherry and Lex Brown shines a spotlight on our state of political unease. This includes work that examines neocolonial architecture, painting that toys with the nature of stereotype and textile work that takes on issues of gender. Accompanying the exhibition will be an essay written by independent curator Jill Moniz, who organized the very compelling show of sculpture by African American female artists at the Landing last year.
Peter Williams makes art to bear witness, he told Bradley Rubenstein back in March. This challenging interview, conducted at a time when police brutality against Black men and women is more visible than ever, shows the seasoned painter thinking about the purpose of art history and grappling with how his art enters the broader conversation between politics and history.
Curator Trevor Schoonmaker has given the title “The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp” to his edition of Prospect New Orleans, the just-opened fourth installment of an ambitious art fest that has evolved into a triennial affair.
The list of participating artists for Prospect.4, titled “The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp,” has been made public. The triennial exhibition, spread across seventeen venues in New Orleans, will feature seventy-three artists from “North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the European powers that colonized New Orleans, addressing issues of identity, displacement, and cultural hybridity within the context of the celebration of the city’s tricentennial,” according to an announcement from the event’s organizers.
Although I have known Peter Williams for decades, and have written about his work in the past, we had never sat down and done a proper interview—it’s been more of a 30-year-long conversation. Recently, however, I wanted to get down his thoughts on several of his latest bodies of work: urgent paintings that are at once timely and have art historical resonance. His inclusion in the November group exhibition As Carriers of Flesh, at David & Schweitzer, saw the artist confronting Whiteness and police brutality against black men and women in colorful canvases that unite history, biography, and allegory.
Williams is an African-American artist whose youth coincided with the galvanizing events of the Civil Rights era. His three other works in the show, all large oil paintings (six feet on the longer side), are racked by the presence of a malevolent white man — part clown, part ogre, all cannibal. As with the bucktoothed head in “Watercolor I,” inexplicable beings pop out of the ogres’ faces, but this time it’s tiny black people doing the popping.
A great deal of art leverages mystique by processing experience through varying layers of abstraction. The N-Word, a new collection of paintings by the artist Peter Williams — published by Rotland Press and with contributions by writers Lynn Crawford and Bill Harris — does the opposite: it lays out a response to systemic violence against people of color by the police in graphic and direct terms.
The 2014 deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police — to name but two of the highest-profile such incidents in that, or any, year — catalyzed a series of in-your-face, unapologetically brash paintings that Peter Williams finished in a concerted burst last winter, on view at New York’s Novella Gallery through April 5.
Peter Williams—who is sixty and black—is having his first solo exhibition of paintings in New York. And not one to ever play it safe, he is exhibiting two distinct bodies of work at Foxy Production (February 15, 2013–March 23, 2013)—three smallish abstract paintings and five large figurative ones—which share a palette of pinks, violets, blues, turquoises, reds, greens and yellows.
Peter Williams is a troubling painter for troubling reasons. There is a disconnect between his sophisticated paint handling—which can veer from dry pointillist dots to hard-sculpted tonalities to bejeweled washes and drips, all in the same picture—and the low-culture effrontery of his images.
Where does the body end and the world begin? It's a question of philosophy and science, and in Peter Williams' exhibition of oil paintings and watercolors at the newly opened Paul Kotula Projects, it's a question of portraiture as well. This show is the perfect inaugural for former Revolution Gallery director Paul Kotula's new space.
Celebrated painter and Wayne State University professor Peter William speaks with a self-confidence balanced by a strong sense of humility, evidenced in his trademark line: "I don't want people to think I am just a legend in my own mind. But for the most part that's the way I feel most of the time." When he says with a hearty laugh and a warm smile "I barely even have a leg to stand on" the painter acknowledges and comes to terms with the subject of the leg he lost in an accident as a young man.
A woman wearing painfully plain clothes is staring out of very freaked-out, unblinking eyes while sitting on a chair in front of Detroit artist Peter Williams’ painting on the second floor of New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art. A small but intensely observant group clusters around her while one youngish fellow interrogates her.