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Amanda Williams
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen


Amanda Williams, "Flamin' Red Hots" from "Color(ed) Theory Suite," 2014-15, color photograph, 13 1/2 x 20". Courtesy of the artist and McCormick Gallery

Continuing through December 31, 2017

Chicago-based artist Amanda Williams has translated a background in architecture into a contemporary art practice that speaks to place and community in the city’s South Side. Williams’ most well-known works are of her “Color(ed) Theory” project, in which the artist paints vacant Englewood homes in vivid, culturally-specific colors before demolition. The intended reading of these works hinges upon the context of their site, so here in the museum’s galleries, documentation and artifacts recapture bits of how these painted structures functioned in place. The two-channel video, “Color Shift” follows the process from painting to razing; remnants from a Crown Royal-purple house become a toy box in honor of a neighbor child.

Aside from “Color(ed) Theory,” this exhibition features two- and three-dimensional objects scaled for the gallery, though the strongest works are the ones that embody Williams’ fine-tuned understanding of the relationship between privilege, people and space. In “A Dream or Substance, a Beamer, a Necklace or Freedom,” a room of gold-leafed plywood has been constructed within the gallery, and without a means of entering; two narrow openings allow the viewer to merely peer inside. Not only does the sensation of being denied entry serve as a precise allegory for the issue of housing access in American cities (especially for people of color), but the gilding of such cheap material prompts viewers to question how value gets assigned to space and property in the first place.


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