Even as some voices are routinely silenced, Peter Williams acknowledges that it is a privilege to speak and be seen. Bearing witness to the times that we are living while honoring the lives and history of people of color, Williams’ new paintings build on four decades of his radical oeuvre with a renewed sense of urgency, defiantly calling out the violence and injustices that continue to be perpetrated against Black Americans and giving voice to those who stand up against hatred, corruption, and criminality.
Taking its name from the Greek mythological goddess and the River Styx, the river that forms a border between the world of the living and Hades, the paintings in this exhibition weave together historical events, allegorical myths and creation stories with current events and Williams’ personal life experiences to address a range of subjects including oppressive social structures, white supremacy, police brutality, abuse of power, and political activism.
Created with oil-based enamel paint and pencil on canvas, Williams introduces a new painted dot technique that is a matrix of cultures and periods—from pointillism, folk art, and digital pixilation to Afrofuturism, Australian Aboriginal dot painting, and traditional African body scarification. The readability of each painting is mitigated as the field of vibrant, colorful marks and amusing cartoonish forms are transformed into a spectral vision caught in an endless moment of becoming or dissolving—a past, present and future in limbo. The works challenge the viewer to make sense of what they are seeing and confront their own understandings of who we are as a people and a country.