William T. Williams

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William T. Williams
Personal details
Born (1942-07-17) July 17, 1942 (age 78)
Cross Creek, North Carolina[1]
Height174 cm
ProfessionFine Artist
WebsiteOfficial website

William T. Williams (born July 17, 1942, in Cross Creek, North Carolina, United States) is an American painter. He is Professor of Art at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, whose faculty he joined in 1971.

Williams is a recipient of numerous awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award. He is also a recipient of the Studio Museum in Harlem's Artist Award in 1992 and received The James Van Dee Zee Award from the Brandywine Workshop for lifetime achievement in the arts in 2005.

He received the 2006 North Carolina Award for Fine Arts, the highest civilian honor the state can bestow.[2] Williams is represented in numerous museum and corporate collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection[3], North Carolina Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Menil Collection, Fogg Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Library of Congress, Yale University Art Gallery, Chase Manhattan Bank, AT&T, General Mills Corporation, UnitedHealth Group, Southwestern Bell Corporation and Prudential Financial Insurance Company of America.

He has exhibited in over 100 museums and art centers in the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, People's Republic of China and Japan.

Early childhood[edit]

Williams is a New York painter with roots in the American South. He spent his early childhood in Spring Lake, North Carolina.[4]

New York: late 1950s[edit]

After the family's move to the North, his art talent was recognized by the head of a local community center, who gave him a room there to use as a studio. He attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan (now the High School of Art and Design), which held many of its classes at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1962 Williams entered Pratt Institute to study painting. During his junior year, he won a summer scholarship to The Skowhegan School of Art and received a National Endowment for the Arts traveling grant.

College years[edit]

He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in 1966 and studied at The Skowhegan School of Art. In 1968 he received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from Yale University School of Art and Architecture.

Williams quickly gained attention from the mainstream art world. The Museum of Modern Art acquired his composition "Elbert Jackson L.A.M.F., Part II" in 1969, and by 1970 his work was being exhibited at the Fondation Maeght in the south of France.

Art school[edit]

After his formal education at Pratt Institute and Yale University in the 1960s in the visual arts curriculum, he investigated the physical boundaries one finds uncommon to explorations in the science of color, setting for himself the standard of achieving in his work an inherent completeness out of the reach of other painters.

The late 1960s[edit]

Trane, 1969, col. Studio Museum in Harlem

In 1969 he participated in The Black Artist in America: A Symposium, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He also took part in numerous exhibitions including the Studio Museum in Harlem's Inaugural Show, X to the Fourth Power, and New Acquisitions held at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1970 Williams was commissioned by the Jewish Museum (New York), and the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.

Founding the Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum[edit]

"The trustees of the Studio Museum in Harlem read my proposal, interviewed me and hired me to start an Artist-in-Residence program. That program had its start at the first site of the Museum over the liquor store on Fifth Avenue (2033 Fifth Avenue). It was a loft, a factory going out of business that had a lot of sewing machines in it. Mel Edwards and I physically cleaned that space out for the Artist-in-Residence program. That was the beginning. I wanted to create a context, namely an Artist-in-Residence program, through which money could be funnelled to artists which would allow them to ponder the kinds of issues and questions that come up in a graduate program." Kinshasa Conwill, former director of the museum, says that the program "has become critical to the museum's identity and its contribution to the larger art arena."

Reese Palley installation[edit]

Williams' first one-man show at New York's Reese Palley Gallery in 1971 resulted in the sale of every painting. The same year, the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibited his work twice; collectors such as AT&T and General Mills purchased his art; and his work was featured in both Life and Time magazines. Valerie J. Mercer

The 1970s: new inspiration[edit]

Williams returned home to the dusty unpaved roads of North Carolina for the inspiration of a new palette, one born of the luster and glow of mica, false gold, and fox fire from earth's pulsating cover. Williams' relief from color-field painting was celebrated in the new works completed between 1971–77, such as Equinox and Indian Summer. In 1975 William also took part in an artist in residence program at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

FESTAC Festival[edit]

In 1977, Williams participated in the second World Festival of Black Arts and African Culture in Lagos, Nigeria (FESTAC). This festival brought together more than 17,000 artists of African descent from 59 countries. It was the largest cultural event ever held on the African continent.

The 1980s[edit]

Early exhibitions[edit]

In 1982 Williams was included in Recent Acquisitions of the Schomburg Collection at the Schomburg Center in New York. In 1984 William took part in a show titled Since the Harlem Renaissance, which traveled to the University of Maryland, Bucknell University and the State University of New York at Old Westbury. It also traveled to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York, and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.

1987: Exhibit at the Smithsonian[edit]

Equinox, 1987

In 1987 William received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He also was a member of a show that took place in Tokyo, Japan entitled The Art of Black America in Japan. William also took part in Contemporary Visual Expressions, a show at the Anacostia Museum/Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..

Espiritu & Materia[edit]

William's traveled to Venezuela with painter Jack Whitten and sculptors Mel Edwards and Tyrone Mitchell for the opening of their exhibition Espiritu & Materia at the Museum of Visual Arts, Alejandro Otero.

The 1990s[edit]

1992: Studio Museum in Harlem Artist Award[edit]

In 1992 Williams was presented the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist's Award for lifetime achievement and his role in creating the artist-in-residence program for the museum.

Working with Bob Blackburn[edit]

Bob Blackburn first invited Williams to make a print at the Printmaking Workshop in 1975. Over the next 22 years, Williams collaborated with Blackburn to produce 19 editions and a number of unique print projects. His last project at the Printmaking Workshop was in 1997 when he produced a number of monoprints underwritten by art patron, Major Thomas.

2000: To conserve a legacy[edit]

In 2000 Williams took part in an extensive traveling show entitled To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The show organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York traveled to eight major museums including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Fisk University, Duke University and Hampton Universities Art museums.

Jazz at Lincoln Center[edit]

In 1994 Williams participated in a Jazz at Lincoln Center program titled "Swing Landscapes: Jazz Visualized". The intent of the Jazz Talk program was to explore what it is about jazz that makes its colors, rhythms and characters so attractive to the painter's eye. Williams and author, Alfred Appel, Jr. discussed the influence of jazz on modern art. This program was part of a New York Citywide celebration honoring the artist Romare Bearden.

Current events[edit]

Receives award for Lifetime Achievement[edit]

In 2005, Williams was invited to create a print at the Brandywine Workshop in conjunction with receiving the James Van Der Zee Award for Lifetime Achievement. Between July and late August he made five trips to Philadelphia, staying several days at a time. These trips yielded four editions and a number of unique hand-colored prints. The Brandywine Workshop located in Philadelphia was founded in 1972 to promote interest and talent in printmaking while cultivating cultural diversity in the arts.

Printmaking at Lafayette College[edit]

In 2006, Williams was a visiting scholar and artist in residence at Lafayette College's Experimental Printmaking Institute (EPI), which included Williams lecture about his work sponsored by the David L. Sr. and Helen J. Temple Visiting Lecture Series Fund. During this year, Williams' work was also shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem in Energy and Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction 1964-1980.

2006: Receives North Carolina Governors Award[edit]

In 2006 William T. Williams received the North Carolina Governors Award for Fine Arts by Governor Mike Easley.

Awards and grants[edit]

  • North Carolina Governor's Award for Fine Arts, North Carolina 2006
  • James Van Der Zee Award, Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2005
  • Joan Mitchell Foundation, Grant Award 1996
  • Mid-Atlantic/NEA Regional Fellowship 1994
  • The Studio Museum in Harlem Artist's Award 1992
  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship 1987
  • City University of New York, Faculty Research Award, Painting 1987, 1984, 1973
  • Creative Arts Public Service Grant, Painting, New York 1985, 1981
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Artist Award, Painting 1970
  • Yale University, Grant for Graduate Study, New Haven, Connecticut 1966
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Traveling Grant 1965

References and further reading[edit]

  • 25 Years of African-American Art: The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York 1994
  • African-American Printmaking - 1838 to the Present, The Rockland Center of the Arts, West Nyack, New York, 1995
  • African American Works on Paper, The Cochran Collection, Atlanta, Georgia, 1991
  • American Images: The SBC Collection of Twentieth-Century American Art, New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1996 ISBN 978-0-8109-1969-3
  • American Paintings at Yale University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven 1982
  • Artist and Influence, Hatch Billops Collection, Inc. New York, Vol. XXIV, 2005, LCCN 00-105283, ISBN 978-0-9702620-1-1
  • The Chemistry of Color, The Harold A. and Ann R. Sorgenti Collection of Contemporary African- American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, ISBN 978-0-943836-26-3
  • Artists Salute Skowhegan, Kennedy Galleries, New York, LCCN 77-89091
  • Ashton, Dore; American Art Since 1945, Oxford University Press, 1982
  • Ashton, Dore; Drawings by New York Artists, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 1972
  • Ashton, Dore; William T. Williams, Miami-Dade Community College Publication, November 1977
  • Ashton, Dore; "Young Abstract Painters; Right On!", Arts Magazine, February 1970
  • Baur, John; Whitney Museum of American Art: Catalogue of the Colle, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1974
  • "Behind Closed Doors", American Visions Magazine, April 1991, Vol. 6 No 2
  • The Black Artist in America: A Symposium, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, January 1969 Vol XXVII No 5
  • Bloom, Janet; "In the Museums", Arts Magazine, December 1969 – 1970
  • Bowling, Frank, "Discussion on Black Art-II", Arts Magazine, 1970 Vol 3
  • Bowling, Frank; "Problems of Criticism", Arts Magazine Vol. 46 No 7
  • "Canvasses Brimming with Color", Life Magazine September 1971 Vol 71
  • Convergence, James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, Newark, Delaware, ISBN 978-0-9610324-3-2
  • Cortez, Jane; "Conversation with Three Artists", Black Orpheus Vol. 3 Nos 2&3, 1975
  • Cotter, Holland; "Energy and Abstraction at the Studio Museum in Harlem", The New York Times, Friday, April 7, 2006
  • Cutter, Holland; "Getting Personal and Cultural in the Abstract", The New York Times, Friday, August 28, 1992
  • Dedication Exhibition, James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Baltimore Maryland, 1990
  • Deluxe Show, Menil Foundation, Rice University, Houston, Texas 1972
  • Driskell, David C. (ed); African American Visual Aesthetics - A Post Modernist View, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, ISBN 978-1-56098-605-8, 1995
  • Driskell, David C.; Amistad II: Afro-American Art, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, LCCN 75-7466
  • Driskell, David C.; Contemporary Visual Expressions, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1987
  • Driskell, David C.; William T. Williams, University of Wisconsin Publication, 1980
  • East-West Contemporary Art, California Afro-American Museum, California, LCCN 84-72490
  • Echlin, Hobey; "Spirit and Chance", Metro Times, Detroit, July 6-July 12, 1994
  • The Empire State Collection: Art for the Public Harry Abrams, Inc., New York 1987 ISBN 978-0-8109-0884-0
  • Espiritu & Materia, Museo de Artes Visuales Alejandro Otero, Caracas, Venezuela, 1991
  • Fine, Elsa Honig; The Afro-American Artist-A Search for Identity, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., LCCN 73-1235, ISBN 978-0-03-010746-7
  • Fourteen Paintings/William T. Williams, The Montclair Museum of Art, Montclair, New Jersey, 1991, ISBN 978-0-936489-42-1
  • Gilliam, Sam; "Al Loving, William T. Williams", Dialogue-An Art Journal, January/February 1995
  • Goode-Bryant and Philips, Contextures, LCCN 78-51925
  • The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection and Plaza Memorials, New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2002
  • Images of America: African American Voices, Selections from the Collection of Mr. And Mrs. Darrell Walker, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville, Arkansas, ISBN 978-0-9744314-0-6
  • Janson, H.W.; The History of Art, Third Edition, Harry Abrams, Inc. 1987 ISBN 978-0-13-389388-5
  • Jones, Kellie & Sims, Lowery Stikes; Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction 1964-1990, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-0-942949-31-5
  • Jones, Walter; "Two Black Artists", Arts Magazine, April 1970
  • Kenkeleba House, Inc. New York 1991
  • Kingsley, April; "From Explosion to Implosion: The Ten Year Transition of William T. Williams", Art Magazine, February 1981
  • Konstantin, Lynne; Art & Antiques, March 1999
  • Mellow, James R.; "The Black Artist; The Black Art Community; The White Art World", New York Times, June 29, 1970
  • Miro, Marsha; "Master Colorist", Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, Sunday, July 3, 1994
  • Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection, Pomegranate Communications, Inc., San Francisco, 1998, ISBN 978-0-7649-0722-7
  • North Carolina Museum of the Arts: Handbook of the Collections, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-88259-978-6
  • Oren, Michael; "The Smokehouse Painters, 1968-1970", Black American Literature Forum, Fall 1990, Vol. 24, No. 3
  • The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Pomegranate Communications, Inc., San Francisco, 2001
  • Painting and Sculpture Today, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1972
  • Patton, Sharon F.; "African American Art", Oxford History of Art; Oxford, 1998
  • The Permanent Collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 1982, OCLC 18027596
  • Perreault, John; "Mideast Pipeline", SoHo Weekly News, January 14, 1981
  • Perreault, John; "Positively Black", SoHo Weekly News, February 27, 1980
  • Potter, Margaret; American Contemporary Art, American Embassy, Russia, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1969
  • Powell, Richard & Reynolds, Jock; To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 1999
  • Revisiting American Art: Works from the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, ISBN 978-0-915171-45-3, 1997
  • Rickey, Carrie; "Singular Work, Double Blind, Triple Threat", Village Voice, March 3, 1980
  • Russell, Stella Pandell; Art in the World, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984, ISBN 978-0-03-061976-2
  • Sandler, Irving; Critic's Choice 1969-70, New York State Council on the Arts Publication
  • Sandler, Irving; Visiting Artists, New York State Council on the Arts, New York, 1972
  • Schjeldahl, Peter; "A Triumph Rather Than a Threat", New York Times, August 17, 1969
  • The Search for Freedom-African-American Abstract Painting 1945-1975
  • Seeing Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition/Chronicle Books, Washington, D.C. 1997
  • A Selection of American Art-The Skowhegan School 1946–1976, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, OCLC 313091724
  • Serwer, Jacquelyn Day; Extensions, Wadsworth Atheneum 1974, OCLC 67547179
  • Shaw, Penny; William T. Williams Homes of Color, January/February 2006 Vol. 5, Issue 1
  • Sims, Lowery Stokes; "36. The Mirror the Other: The Politics of Esthetics", Art Forum, March 1990, XXVIII, No. 7
  • Sims, Lowery Stokes; Vivian Browne/William T. Williams, Jamaica Arts Center, Jamaica, New York, 1988
  • Since the Harlem Renaissance-50 Years of Afro-American Art, Center Gallery of Bucknell University, Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, 1985, LCCN 85-71056, ISBN 978-0-916279-02-8
  • Successions: Prints by African American Artists from the Jean and Robert Steele Collection, The Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park 2002, LCCN 2002-101248, ISBN 978-0-937123-42-3.
  • The Structure of Color, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 1971
  • Taha, Halima; Collecting African American Art, New York: Crown Publishers Inc, 1998, ISBN 978-0-517-70593-3
  • Twardy, Chuck; "Improving with Age", The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, Sunday, July 18, 1993
  • Twentieth Century African American Art from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Walker, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas]] 1996
  • Using Walls, Jewish Museum Publication, 1970
  • Weld, Allison; A Force of Repetition, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey, 1990
  • William T. Williams, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1985, OCLC 14720425
  • "William T. Williams, Artist", Bay Street Banner, Boston, Massachusetts, August 20, 1970
  • Wilson, Judith; "A Serene Indifference", Village Voice, January 21, 1981
  • Works on Paper/William T. Willilams, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 1992, ISBN 978-0-942949-07-0
  • "X to the 4th Power", Arts Magazine, September 1969
  • Zimmer, William; "Adding Emotion to Abstract Paintings", The New York Times, Sunday, November 7, 1991
  • Zimmer, William; "A 'Painterly' Show in Jersey City", The New York Times, October 30, 1988


External links[edit]