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Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green/East Berlin) / Studio Thomas Borho, Oberkasseler Str. 39, Düsseldorf, Germany / July 7, 2012. 2012. Pigmented inkjet print. Paper: 16 x 20″ (40.6 x 50.8 cm); framed: 30 1/4 x 33 1/2″ (76.8 x 85.1 cm). Katherine and Keith L. Sachs © Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams
Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968, Eastman Kodak Company, 1968 / (Meiko laughing) / Vancouver, B.C. / April 6, 2005. 2005.
Chromogenic color print.
Paper: 20 x 24″ Glenstone.
Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner, New York/London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne © Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Model #105M – R59C / Keystone Shower Door / 57.4 × 59˝ / Chrome/Raindrop / SKU #109149 / #96235. 970 – 084 – 000 / (Meiko) / Vancouver, B.C / April 6, 2005 (No. 1). 2005. Gelatin silver print. Paper: 16 x 20″ (40.6 × 50.8 cm); framed: 29 15/16 x 37 3/8″ (76 x 94.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art © Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Bergische Bauernscheune, Junkersholz / Leichlingen, September 29th, 2009. 2010. Pigmented inkjet print. Paper: 20 x 24″ (50.8 x 61 cm); framed: 32 7/8 x 37 1/16″ (83.5 x 94.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund. Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner, New York/London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne © Christopher Williams
Art

Awkward Gallery: Christopher Williams Retrospective at the MoMA

By Sarah Bochicchio

July 24, 2014

On the uppermost floor of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a somewhat unconventional retrospective of the difficult-to-categorize Christopher Williams. Presenting photographs from his 35-year career, “Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness” evidences what curator Roxana Marcoci called his “truly cross-disciplinary” work. The exhibition engages with photographic conventions and commercialism, sometimes gnawing at your expectations, but always with cleverness and spirit.

The show is arranged in what Williams referred to as an “awkward gallery” because you must exit the way you entered. Said entrance/exit features checklists and writings, which have been blown up onto bright red walls. These “supergraphics” relate to the walls from previous exhibitions that are installed throughout the exhibit, creating a connection between past, present, and future. The actual gallery space, however, does not include any wall texts, so spectators must rely on a confusing, non-sequential (but very appropriate) program for direction.

Open Gallery

In reference to the atypical space, Williams said, “My titles are too long or they’re too short, my mattes are too big, the pictures are a bit low, everything is as it should be, but just a little bit akimbo.” In doing so, he invites viewers to ask themselves why indeed the pictures hang so low because “then you’re asking a philosophical question and you’re confronting the idea that they should be higher and then the question is why should they be higher?”

The exhibition features works such as Angola to Vietnam (1987-89), and Dix-huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle. Angola to Vietnam, one of his major projects from the 80’s, is a series of 27 photographs that combine the scientific and the political. His more recent series, Dix-huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle, considers image culture as it has been affected by the Cold War as well as its role in exhibitionist society. Throughout, Williams colorfully engages with artistic traditions and consumer culture, depicting anything from a Cuban beach or a bunch of apples to a woman dressed in an empty smile and a Kodak-colored towel.

Open Gallery

And more often than not, any models featured will be smiling. Williams considers smiling his area of work, commenting, “over the years, I’ve tried to reposition the smile and the laugh in different ways” due to the lack of smiles in the worlds of conceptual art and photography.

However, Williams stated that he does not consider himself as belonging to either of those worlds. “I’m uncomfortable with the term ‘conceptual artist’ but I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea that I’m a photographer,” he said. He observed that he is a “picture editor and a graphic designer” as much as anything else.

Open Gallery

Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green/East Berlin) / Studio Thomas Borho, Oberkasseler Str. 39, Düsseldorf, Germany / July 7, 2012. 2012. Pigmented inkjet print. Paper: 16 x 20″ (40.6 x 50.8 cm); framed: 30 1/4 x 33 1/2″ (76.8 x 85.1 cm). Katherine and Keith L. Sachs © Christopher Williams

“Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness” will be on view at the MoMA from July 27 through November 2, 2014.

Open Gallery

Christopher WilliamsMoMaMuseum of Modern ArtNew YorkRetrospectiveRoxana Marcoci

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