Monday, March 25, 2024

William T. Williams (USA b. 1942)

Old Bethel (1970)
acrylic and graphite on paper 141 x 104 cm

William T. Williams (born July 17, 1942) is an American painter and educator. His artistic journey has been marked by a process-based approach to painting, drawing motifs from personal memory and cultural narratives to create non-referential, abstract compositions. Let’s delve into his fascinating life and work:

  1. Early Years and Background:

    • Born in Cross Creek, North Carolina, Williams’s family later moved to Queens, New York when he was four years old.
    • His formative years included visits to North Carolina during summers.
    • In 1956, a pivotal encounter with famed artist Jacob Lawrence fueled his belief that he could pursue a professional artistic career.
  2. Education and Artistic Development:

    • Williams attended the High School for Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he frequented the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    • He graduated from New York City Community College in 1960 and later earned his B.F.A. degree from Pratt Institute in 1966.
    • His artistic journey continued at Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where he obtained his M.F.A. degree in 1968.
  3. Career and Exhibitions:

    • Williams’s first exhibit was part of a group show called “X to the Fourth Power” at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1969.
    • Throughout the 1970s, his work was showcased at prestigious venues such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York, as well as the American Embassy in Moscow and the Fondation Maeght in France.
    • He became a professor of art at Brooklyn College in 1970 and held summer residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
  4. Influences and Style:

    • Williams’s art was profoundly influenced by his first trip to Africa in the late 1970s.
    • His work evolved, incorporating elements from African art and culture.
    • His non-referential abstract compositions often reflect personal memories and cultural narratives.
  5. Recognition and Legacy:

    • In 1986, Williams became the first Black artist included in H.W. Janson’s History of Art textbook.
    • He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987.
    • His legacy endures as a trailblazer in American art.

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