Over the last 10 years, Michael Williams has created paintings known for their layered imagery, eye-popping color, and use of techniques such as airbrushing and inkjet printing. His large-scale works often begin as drawings either on paper or on the computer screen before they are printed or transferred to canvas and then embellished with oil paint. For Michael Williams, the artists’ first US solo museum exhibition, Williams will present a suite of new paintings and a series of drawings.
The narrative content of Williams’s work reveals his dark sense of humor and exploration of the role of the painter as observer. Three large canvases in the exhibition, for example, develop from the same scene from one of the artist’s drawings: a student seated in a classroom daydreaming about lacrosse during a lecture about global warming. Williams’s wickedly funny allegories merge with abstract painting and amoebic shapes, which sometimes fill the entirety of his canvases. The resulting works offer the eye a dense and absorbing terrain of color and form. Pushing his experiments with a large-scale latex printer one step further, Williams also presents two paintings that are wholly printed in contrast to his works in oil paint.
Upstairs in the Scaife Collection Galleries, which house the museum’s collection, a satellite installation of Williams’s “puzzle drawings” reveals a different aspect of the artist’s process. Since 2010, Williams has traveled with photocopies of his own drawings. While on the road, he cuts up and collages these copies to make new works on paper. The rough outline of a jigsaw puzzle piece is a consistent motif in the ongoing series; Williams also uses it as a tool for pure visual invention. Creating gaps in his preexisting imagery, the puzzle shape allows him to discover new forms of abstraction between recognizable things.