Monday, April 13, 2015

NEW YORK: Philemona Williamson

Philemona Williamson, Round About Midnight, 2014, Oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches. Image via
Black & Colored
April 10 - May 12, 2015

16 Mercer Street
New York, NY


An exhibition of recent paintings by Philemona Williamson — intriguing and unsettling works that illustrate the edginess of imagination, pubertal curiosity and drama – is on view at the June Kelly Gallery.

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 crucial.

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 quandary.
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.

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