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In the work on display, Williams threads historical conditions of black incarceration—the middle passage, slavery, and escape—through current modes of black incarceration—prison, cultural appropriation, and the legacy effects of redlining. These “political” threads compose the support for a similar kind of painterly weaving, one in which the artist elaborates on the modernist grid and various compositional inventions like the flatting of the picture plane and expressionistic use of line and color. Thus, for example, a ship carrying slaves across the middle passage is also a cruise ship holding prisoners of a different sort. This, in turn, serves as the support for Williams’ investigation of “dot” painting technique, gridding, and framing (Voyage, Then and Now, 2019). Williams’ paintings are, in this way, not about incarceration, they are about painting—but also about painting from a particular racial position and thus never “about” anything else. In this way too the work can be at once heartbreaking and funny, critical and nonsensical. It is both committed in its politics and radical in its composition. 

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