July 13 – August 12, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, July 13, 6–8 p.m.
Atlanta, GA (June 30, 2023) – UTA Artist Space is pleased to present In the Wilderness, an exhibition with Baltimore-based curator, professor and interdisciplinary artist James Williams II, on view from July 13 through August 12. Prompted by questions around identity raised by his then five-year-old daughter, Williams’ new body of paintings and wall works explore the anxieties of navigating conversations about racism and discrimination as a Black parent and how media has shaped racial constructs across generations.
Williams’ use of satire and tactile, childlike materials such as yarn, chalkboard and Velcro belies the complexities and ambiguities of the Black construct. Just as his daughters’ unaffected understanding of race reminds him that the racial complexities in our society need not be as complicated, The Rose Garden, for example, with manipulative Velcro and faceless, silhouetted figures, points out that the Black construct is complicated, fluid, and unreliable.
Three new sculptural paintings on view, each taking the form of vintage CRT television sets, reference formative cultural moments from his childhood–“Boyz n the Hood,” Notorious B.I.G. music videos, and the “Street Fighter” video games. The three scenes, artifacts from popular culture, examine the Black character archetypes in film. Similar to the materiality of the oil paintings, the television sets feature working power buttons, lights, and even a prop video game controller, tempting viewers to touch and experience their exploration of the Black construct first-hand.
“For Black Americans, the metaphorical wilderness can represent the historical and ongoing struggle for equality, justice, and acceptance in a predominantly white society. There have been people before me who have left behind footprints and markers that told stories of their experiences. In similar fashion, this exhibition is full of personal stories in my experience as a young Black man and the markers I leave behind for my children. I want the work to speak on topics of race and trauma, but I also want to speak on love and grace,” says Williams.
“We have always been drawn to the playfulness and materiality in James’ practice. With his new body of work exploring film, television, and representation, it’s fitting and thought-provoking to showcase the pieces at UTA, which sits at the epicenter of those verticals,” says UTA Gallery
ABOUT JAMES WILLIAMS II
James Williams II is a curator and interdisciplinary artist whose work centers on topics of social and cultural identity in the United States tied together by self-portraiture and narration. His most recent project was curating the show, Whatchamacallit. The exhibition, accompanied by a publication, focused on the superimposed identities and the growing obsession with them. Williams is the recipient of MFA Joan Mitchell Foundation award, the Bromo Seltzer Fellowship, and served as artist-in-residence at School 33 in Baltimore, Maryland. Williams, originally from Upstate New York, received his master’s degree from the Mount Royal School of Art at Maryland Institute College Art (MICA). He currently teaches at MICA.
ABOUT UTA ARTIST SPACE
Since the establishment of its flagship Beverly Hills location in 2018, UTA Artist Space has been committed to showcasing art by globally recognized talent. With the opening of an Atlanta location in spring 2023, UTA Artist Space expands its impressive vision and reach across the United States. The original location has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including Enrique Martinez Celaya, Mandy El-Sayegh, Conrad Egyir, The Estate of Ernie Barnes, Essence Harden, Ferrari Sheppard, and Ai Weiwei, among others.
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