Peter Williams: Mass Murder

23 July - 5 November 2020
Paul Kotula Projects is excited to announce the solo exhibition, Peter Williams: Mass Murder opening July 23. Consisting of a vast number of paintings from five series of work, Mass Murder elicits dialog on the unrelenting injustice on Black Americans.  Mass Murder was first exhibited at CUE Foundation, New York, in 2018 as part of Williams's solo exhibition With So Little To Be Sure Of curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah.  This installment will take a new form, moving between the distinct intimate spaces within the gallery.

Peter Williams shifts readily between figuration and abstraction to form complex statements that cross multiple histories - social, political, personal and art.  In his essay for With So Little To Be Sure Of, Ossei-Mensah states, "Constructed with a sense of urgency and concern, Williams's work speak frankly to our society by articulating the beauty and horror of daily life for Black communities in the United States.  By invoking the genres of history painting and traditional portraiture with his own flair - like masters such as Bosch, Bruegel, Goya and Velazquez before him - Williams is candidly chronicling life as he sees it via dark humor and storytelling, in an effort to covey the truth through a critical lens.  As his predecessors have done before him, Williams's expressive approach provides the viewer a window into his personal anxieties about violence against black bodies."
For Mass Murder, created between 2014 and 2018, Williams intentionally generates paintings in small scale.  His "windows", as paintings are often considered, are at times constrained, isolated spaces.  Two seriesof work are inspired by stories and images related to charges against individuals, many whose conviction and/or incarceration is for possession of marijuana, amounts that are now legal. These portraits are tightly "framed" in bands of multi-colors and/or fractured by vertical bars.  Another series of paintings are 3-dimensional. Their circular images could be read as targets, eyes or perhaps planets and molecules.  They are overflowing with bright colors, sometimes glitter, in successive dots, stripes, patterns, and/or fractured webs.  They are fetishistic, but cautious symbols. There are also a series of narratives, some built with the addition of scrapings from the artist's palette or objects.  A few of these paintings contain names from history: Rick Jones, Robert Wilbert and David Bowie.  For the latter, a figure wears an astronaut helmet while an Afrofuturist structure floats to its left.  Finally, a series of fictitious portraits float against a white background (a nod to painter Jim Chatelain).  Their combined gestured markings and exaggerated features give each character a distinct and affecting personality.  They, like all the other portraits in Mass Murder excluding two (they belong to Sandra Bland) are male; a self-portrait completes his community.

Peter Williams (born Nyack, NY) was a noted American artist and a known figure in the Detroit arts community.  While he retired as Professor, University of Delaware, Williams spent 17 years in Detroit working as an artist and professor at Wayne State University. His work was regularly featured at Revolution (and later Paul Kotula Projects) and other cultural institutions in metro-Detroit.  His commanding work, Portrait of Christopher D. Fischer, Third Reich Skinhead, 1995, collected by the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1996, remains a constant presence in the museum's Modern and Contemporary galleries.  During a career that spans four decades, Williams's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and it is included in such other public collections as Smithsonian Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Walker Art Center, Howard University, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Delaware Art Museum, as well as the Pizzuti Collection, The Bunker/Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Mott-Warsh Collection, and Jorge Perez Collection, to name a few.  Williams earned his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.