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Peter Williams in the studio.

For more than 45 years Williams has chronicled current and historical events, interspersing pictorial narratives with personal anecdotes and fictional characters in order to create vibrant 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.

Williams’ more recent paintings address a range of subjects including oppressive social structures, white supremacy, police brutality, abuse of power, and political activism. In his on-going series, Black Exodus, Williams tells an Afrofuturist tale of a brown-skinned race that escapes to outer space in search of new planet homes and an end to the cycles of oppression from which they have been subjected. The tale that Williams has envisioned is a journey of consciousness and conscience, a metaphor for the inner and outer travels that all of us must undertake to confront the truth about race and ourselves. 

Peter Williams (1952 - 2021) was born in Suffern, NY and raised in Nyack, NY.  He earned his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In 2021 he was the recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship Award, 2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020, he received the Artists’ Legacy Foundation Artist Award.  In 2018 he was inducted into the National Academy of Design. Other awards include the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (2018), Joan Mitchell Awards (2004, 2007), Ford Foundation Fellowships (1985, 1987), and McKnight Foundation Fellowship (1983). He was to retire in September, 2021 from his position as Senior Professor, Fine Arts Department, University of Delaware and taught at Wayne State University for 17 years prior.   

Williams’ many exhibitions include Black Universe (2020) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI; Trinosophes, Detroit, MI; and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. Men of Steel, Women of Wonder (2019), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AK; River of Styx (2018), Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; With So Little To Be Sure Of (2018), CUE Art Foundation, New York; Prospect.4: The Lotus In Spite Of The Swamp (2017-18), Prospect Triennial, New Orleans, LA; Dark Humor: Peter Williams (2017), Allcott Gallery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; The N-Word: Common and Proper Nouns (2017), Ruffin Gallery, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; Me, My, Mine: Commanding Subjectivity in Painting (2016), DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY.

Peter Williams’ paintings are held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Walker Art Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Nasher Museum of Art, Delaware Art Museum, Davis Museum of Art/Wellesley College, Ft. Wayne Museum of Art, Howard University in Washington DC; Wayne State University, Detroit; as well as numerous private collections including Jorge M. Perez/El Espacio 23, Miami, FL; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; McEvoy Family Collection, San Francisco, CA; Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, MI; Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection/The Bunker, Palm Beach, FL; Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Kansas City, MO; CCH Pounder, New Orleans, LA; Rev. Al Shands, Louisville, KY; Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth, Palm Beach, FL; Burger Collection Hong Kong; among others.  

Peter Williams Incarcertion, New Nation, 2018

Peter Williams
Incarcertion, New Nation, 2018
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
72 x 144 in. (3 panels, each 72 x 48 in)

Peter Williams My Culture is Yer Freight, 2019

Peter Williams
My Culture is Yer Freight, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Rake's Progress, 2019

Peter Williams
Rake's Progress, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Voyage, Then and Now, 2019

Peter Williams
Voyage, Then and Now, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
72 x 96 in.

Peter Williams Detroit, 2019

Peter Williams
Detroit, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
48 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Chicago, 2019

Peter Williams
Chicago, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
48 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Petite Incarceration III, 2019

Peter Williams
Petite Incarceration III, 2019
Oil based enamel, oil and pencil on canvas
48 x 36 in.

Peter Williams Small Freight, 2019

Peter Williams
Small Freight, 2019
Oil on canvas
48 x 48 in.

Peter Williams Mine, 2017

Peter Williams
Mine, 2017
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams #137, 2017

Peter Williams
#137, 2017
Oil on canvas
50 x 60 in.

Peter Williams Sandra Bland, 2017

Peter Williams
Sandra Bland, 2017
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 in.

Peter Williams Specimen, 2017

Peter Williams
Specimen, 2017
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 in.

Peter Williams Black Bone, 2017

Peter Williams
Black Bone, 2017
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Resistance I, 2017

Peter Williams
Resistance I, 2017
Oil on canvas
48 x 36 in.

Peter Williams Resistance II, 2017

Peter Williams
Resistance II, 2017
Oil on canvas
48 x 36 in.

Peter Williams Pergamon Street, 2017

Peter Williams
Pergamon Street, 2017
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Mosaic, 2017

Peter Williams
Mosaic, 2017
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 in.

Peter Williams Mass Incarceration, 2017

Peter Williams
Mass Incarceration, 2017
Oil and glitter on canvas
30 x 24 in.

Peter Williams Splash, 2017

Peter Williams
Splash, 2017
Oil on canvas
60 x 48 in.

Peter Williams White Monopoly, 2018

Peter Williams
White Monopoly, 2018
Oil based enamel, glitter and pencil on canvas
18 x 18 in.

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