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Neil Williams, Pop, acrylic on canvas, 84 1/2” x 96”, Spanierman Gallery
Spanierman Gallery, LLC, at East Hampton will present a survey of Neil Williams’s art, encompassing geometric, fluorescent oil-based shaped paintings and color-field paintings from the 1960s as well as works Williams evolved in the early 1970s consisting of a technique of sculptural collage, applying boldly hued dried skins of acrylic paint directly to the canvas. While continuing to emphasize the structural integrity of his support, in these images Williams embraced an original painterly abstract mode. In late colorful abstractions, he synthesized landscape and floral elements inspired by his experience of Brazil, fusing the tropical with the urban concrete.
At ArtHamptons, Spanierman will showcase the revolutionary shaped canvases that Williams pioneered in the mid-1960s. One of the first to explore their aesthetic potential, Williams produced finely crafted geometric paintings distinguished by a vibrant palette and hard-won stance.
Born in Bluff, Utah in 1934, he exhibited regularly in New York and could often be seen at the legendary Max’s Kansas City. His first solo show was at Dick Bellamy’s Green Gallery in Manhattan in 1964. That same year, he participated in the exhibition The Shaped Canvas organized by Lawrence Alloway for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum where his work hung alongside that of Frank Stella, Paul Feeley, and Sven Lukin. Gradually distancing himself from the downtown art scene, he spent the majority of his time in Sagaponack, New York, where, in 1972, he and Stella purchased the former potato barn, located along the Railroad tracks at the bend of Narrow Lane and Wainscott Harbor Road. They divided the building into two huge living and studio spaces.
Williams taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York and held guest professorships at Metro State College in Denver and at Syracuse University. He also developed several screenplays, including a script that dealt with the contemporary history of the Navajo. In 1986 a retrospective of Williams’s work organized by Leffingwell and Bellamy was held at the Clocktower, a well-known alternative gallery in New York. Williams’s career was cut short by his untimely death in New York on March 25, 1988 at the age of fifty-three. In his obituary, the New York Times described him as an “artist’s artist” who was “not well known to the general public, but was greatly admired by his peers.”