American artist and architect Amanda Williams multidisciplinary practice plays with colour and space to reflect on discrimination within the urban space.Read More
Williams was born in 1974 in Evanston, Illinois. She received a bachelor's degree in Architecture from Cornell University in New York, with an emphasis on fine art in 1997.
Williams has received multiple awards and grants for her work as both an artist and an architect, including the Architecture Record award, the Joan Mitchell Painting and Sculpture grant, and USA Ford fellowship.
Williams' art practice spans painting, sculpture, and public interventions. Her work is concerned with colour and its political implications with regards to race, space, place, and architectural structures. These works have taken inspiration from Williams' own experience growing up in the Auburn-Gresham neighbourhood of the South Side of Chicago, drawing our attention to the ways in which race and colour have influenced our notions of value and importance.
In response to the changing landscape of suburban Chicago, Williams developed her series 'Color(ed) Theory' (2014—16), which painted the façades of abandoned houses set for demolition in bright, bold colours. All the houses in this project were located in the historically underprivileged neighbourhood of Englewood, in the South Side of Chicago.
Williams employed a vibrant colour palette in painting these houses, all of which took cues from the African American vernacular, such as specific restaurants, hair products, and foods. Each work in this series is named after the object or space that reflects the colour Williams used in her treatment of the house. Harold's Chicken Shack (2014) was painted with a vibrant red; Pink Oil Moisturizer (2014) was painted with pale pink; and Ultrasheen (2014) with a bright aqua.
'Color(ed) Theory' (2014—16) sought to encourage questions regarding urban decay and memory. It drew attention to the lack of investment in Black communities, which has led to the neglect and decline of these neighbourhoods. This project was first exhibited at the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015 as photographic documentation.
In 2021, Williams created a participatory work entitled Embodied Sensations for the MoMA's Atrium space. This work considered factors of space and movement as a result of the general restrictive measures of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as its political underpinnings in terms of racial issues regarding access and regulation.
In this installation, Williams rearranged MoMA's Atrium furniture into piles to allow for social distancing. Viewers were invited to contribute to the work by undertaking an online survey, which prompted them to respond to the following keywords: 'care', 'knowledge', 'access', and 'power'. Their responses then generated a series of instructions for physical movement, which could either be performed on-site or online.
Amanda Williams has held solo exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; MoMA, New York; and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Missouri. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Smithsonian Design Museum, New York; Venice Architecture Biennale; Chicago Architecture Biennial; and the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco. Her work has been collected by major institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago; MoMA; and Cornell University, New York.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2022