Comprising a new body of works that continues his approach towards brightly colored and texturally rich compositions, artist Michael Williams returns to Gladstone Gallery this month. The artist, whose work often explores narrow corners and specific emotions drawn from the experience of the world, exhibits a selection of works that continue and expand his vocabulary.
The pieces here are composed using inkjet paint, continuing Williams’s exploration of the possibilities and complications inherent to making and understanding a painting in the digital age. Built within Photoshop using a digital drawing pad, Williams twists and turns his hand through the digital canvas, allowing dense layering and, by contrast, precise clean lines and bits of text that confuse the work’s origin and approach. Williams questions the action of painting as a physical extension of the body, using the full potential of these new processes to make paintings that can also function formally and move the conversation beyond what defines the analog versus the digital.
Regularly highlighting both the banality and extraordinary nature of contemporary life, Williams’s pieces here alternate in approach and language. His multifaceted, masterfully constructed compositions collage text, symbols, animals, and figures that require a new mode of reading in order to understand the meaning behind each narrative he depicts, yet at the same time he also allows pieces to unfurl or stand almost empty. There’s the whorls of color in Curb Your Enthusiasm, which bend the fabric of reality through scale and line, while in works like Don’t Nuke New Zealand draw on a sparse presentation to lend its gallows humor all the m=ore punch.
Though there may be hundreds of layers in one of Williams’ paintings, the process of printing flattens the picture down to a single plane, removing any physical evidence of the artist’s complex approach to each composition. The multilayered nature of these paintings is readily apparent in a work like Struck Set, which depicts a disheveled dining room table with chairs out of place, broken plates, and red wine spills. In this composition, Williams also includes his own paintings from this exhibition on the walls of this imagined room, suggesting conceptual and narrative through lines between this group of paintings. In addition to demonstrating Williams’ compelling ability to visualize narrative events and concepts, this exhibition also reveals the artist’s dark sense of humor and continual investigation of the role of the painter in a post-internet world.
The show closes April 25th.
— D. Creahan
Michael Williams: Opening [Exhibition Site]