An exhibition of recent paintings by Philemona
Williamson — intriguing and unsettling works that illustrate the
edginess of imagination, pubertal curiosity and drama – will open at
the June Kelly Gallery on April 10. The exhibition will remain
on view until May 12.
The exhibition, entitled Black & Colored,
displays Williamson’s shrewd sense of the power of color, placement
and space. In contrast to earlier work with bright palettes
and limitless horizon, here she gives us stage-like settings with
heavy use of black as the dramatic background for her luminous
figurative images. This interplay locked into the constricted
horizontal planes between viewer and dense abstract background
intensifies the mystery in Williamson’s narrative.
As she has done before, Williamson derives
some of her narratives from contemporary media conundrums. Her
energetic figures, raw with instinct, between stages of adolescence
and adulthood, exude an aura of anticipation, of an arrested moment
just before a happening. These curiosity-seeking protagonists
are painted with thin quick brushstrokes of pigment with tell-tale
markings and subtly visible white drawn lines that reflect her
process as she develops her scenarios.
While there are stylistic continuities and
intense thematic preoccupations in this new body of paintings,
Williamson’s work shifts in unexpected ways. But she still
leaves her stories never fully revealed.
Her depiction of blithe curiosity reflects
less concern with an examination of life stages between adolescence
and adulthood than with restless energy and uncertainty over social,
cultural and political matters that she feels are logical and
Williamson’s use of commonplace objects as
props and keys to her narratives impart a sense of intrigue and
irony. Some are recognizable as known objects, such as the
dolls and the lobster, while others like the monkey bunny, offer a
Her work continues to teeter on the edge of
satire, tradition and innovation. For Williamson, objects
transcend their function and are seemingly playful, but upon closer
examination they are dark and foreboding, delving deep into
contemporary themes that mystify.
Williamson, a native New Yorker, received a
bachelor's degree from Bennington College and a master’s degree in
painting from New York University. Among her awards are a Joan
Mitchell Foundation grant, Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant and a
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Her work has been shown in many one-person and
group exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad, including
the IV Bienal Internacional de Pintura en Cuenca, Ecuador, in 1994.
She is represented in numerous private and public collections,
including The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina; Hampton
University Museum, VA; Sheldon Art Museum, University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, NE; Mott-Warsh Art Collection, Flint, MI, and AT&T.
Williamson’s commissions include “Seasons,” 18
fused-glass panels for the MTA’s Art in Transit program at the
Livonia Station in Brooklyn, and “Folktales from Around the World,”
four glass mosaic murals for the New York City Board of Education at
the Glen Oaks Campus School, Queens.