In 2007, the Artists Legacy Foundation established the Artist Prize to recognize and reward the achievements of outstanding painters or sculptors. Every year, ten painters or sculptors are nominated for the ALF Artist Award. The nominees and jury members are experts from the art world.
The Artist`s award Prize is $ 25,000 and there is no limit on the use of funds by the recipient.
The Artists’ Legacy Foundation named Peter Williams as the recipient of its Artist Award 2020. For more than forty years, Williams’ pictorial practice has reflected racism, police brutality, incarceration, and environmentalism. He often does this through a bright figurative lens. His recent work includes afro-futuristic visuals and storytelling. It focuses on fictional superheroes and space colonists.
Williams was chosen by a jury panel. It consisted of Eve Aschheim, artist and professor at Princeton University; Dennis Elliott, artist and founder of the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York; and Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Also, Williams will be participating in an interview with Jordana Moore Suggestion, an assistant professor of American art at the University of Maryland. It will be streamed online on October 22nd.
For over 40 years, Williams has chronicled current and historical events, blending pictorial stories with personal anecdotes and fictional characters to create pictures of the diverse experiences of black Americans.
Boldly and humorously, he tackles the darkest topics, including, but not limited to, police brutality, lynching, slavery, mass imprisonment, and other areas of racial oppression.
Williams uses cultural criticism to shape new creation myths by retelling American history from a new and cosmic perspective. Peter Williams lives in Wilmington, Delaware, and is a senior professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Delaware.
He has got his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
One can see his paintings in lots of permanent collections. There are his canvases in the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Howard University, Washington DC; Wayne State University, Detroit: Davis Museum at Wellesley College, MA; CCH Pounder Collection, New Orleans; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; the Mott-Warsh Collection in Flint, MI; The Bunker/Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Palm Beach; Jorge Perez Collection, Miami; Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Kansas City; and the McEvoy Collection, San Francisco, and others.
Using outrageous colors, Peter Williams creates bold paintings that confront racial oppression and represent the black universe
At the beginning of August, artist Peter Williams presented the George Floyd Triptych (2020) at Untitled, Art Online, the first virtual art fair.
The work, depicting Floyd’s arrest, death, and burial in three panels, was the focus of Luis De Jesus’ virtual booth in Los Angeles.
A visual storyteller and cultural critic, Williams explores the experiences of blacks in America, both autobiographically and more universally, through historical and contemporary events.
His decision to document Floyd’s death reflects his many years of practice. For over four decades, its themes have included slavery, lynching, mass imprisonment, and police brutality.
In recent years, Williams has made a series of pictures about black women of the black power revolution (both “violent figures” and “movie queens”), which depict Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, and Pam Grier with firearms.
Another series, How to Create a Brutalist Painting, uses artistic and architectural references to name a group of closely-crafted caricatures of police officers who abuse black men.
Throughout his work, the recipient of the artist award uses comic-style characters to blunt the sharp edges of the material he works with.
The cultural references based on the text make it clear in his paintings what often remains unspoken in real life. Sometimes his scenes are set in other words, another strategy designed to balance the harrowing reality of America’s past with the current history of racial violence and criminal injustice.
The artist has also found humor as a reliable tool on this front. For example, he created a black superhero and called him The N-Word.
When Williams received the Artists’ Legacy Foundation 2020 Artist Award this week, he said that he is honored to receive this outstanding award.
Valerie Cassel Oliver, the curator of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and a jury member for the artist`s award, said that it was a pleasure to pay tribute to the work of artists like Peter Williams.
Peter remained true to his practice as an artist and educator. His work has continued to evolve with all and brilliance that one would expect given his longevity in the field. This is a well-deserved recognition of his artistic virtuosity!
As a professional educator, Williams continued his practice with 17 years in the faculty at Wayne State University at the University of Delaware, where he was a senior professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts.
Peter Williams’s Body, Opened and Closed
Peter Williams, who is now more than sixty and black, was having his first solo exhibition of paintings in New York.
He has never played it safe, he shows two separate blocks of work on Foxy (February 15, 2013 – March 23, 2013) – three small abstract paintings and five large pictures that share a common palette of pink and violet colors. , blue, turquoise, red, green, and yellow colors.
The colors in the artist’s paintings are reminiscent of both India and the children’s board game Candyland, but the world that Williams portrays, including the abstract paintings, is vulnerable where things have either gone awry or are about to begin.
In figurative paintings, where imaginary creatures inhabit a flat, abstract realm, viewers tend to feel like they are part of the artist’s dreams – or are they nightmares? – fantasies, memories, desires, and free associations. Fear and gaiety coexist in Williams’s turbulent world unlike any other.
Untitled (2013) depicts a tree – or the spirit of a tree – squeals in horror at the sight of a leg in red and white plaid trousers and chic loafers dotted with yellow and blue dots and circled in red.
Bitmap resembles cake frosting and interrupts the flat surface of the painting, adding an intuitive component to the viewer’s visual experience. Various creatures with long, hose-like noses swim around.
Another untitled painting (also from 2013), which is dark red, depicts a pink nude with a large yellow head that carries two pistols. He is both brave and scared. He is looking over his shoulder – his head is literally thrown back. Does yellow skin imply cowardice? And if so, does the red earth indicate blood, possible violence? Williams provokes us to ask troubling questions.
The figure is looking straight up at a large pink head with turquoise nostrils looking down from the top edge of the painting. One of the legs of the nude figure looks like a wooden board.
The painting highlights the connection between cartoons and deeply rooted racism in this country.
While Williams’ paintings are full of fantastic creatures, rendered in adamantly cheerful colors, they come across as deeply autobiographical.
When he was a young man, he had to amputate his leg after the driver of the car in which he was a passenger deliberately threw it off a cliff. Although it is likely that the artist is still haunted by this event. Of course, he is aware of its destructive consequences, the artist does not make a direct mention of this. To his credit, the artist is not trying to evoke sympathy or declare himself as a victim.
Look at this painting. Is this scene a memory of the artist’s childhood? Dream? Have we become lovers of his inner life? How do we understand how the time passes when we turn sixty and our damaged body becomes more vulnerable?
Among the heads, their threatening presence, the artist brings tenderness to the interaction of the spirit of the tree and the child.
Compassion is rare in contemporary art, and the recipient of the Artists` Legacy Foundation 2020 Artist Award 2020, Peter Williams gets it right, meaning there is no trace of sentimentality in his work.