September 10, 2019
The Smith Gallery is pleased to present Acting Hard, a two person exhibition featuring new and recent work by the artists William Paul Thomas and Antoine Williams at the gallery’s Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts location through October 10, 2019. Artist Talks and a Reception will take place at the gallery on Thursday, September 26th from 6-8pm.
Works for the exhibition were selected by the artists themselves and focus on their shared interests in representations of black masculinity in a variety of cultural contexts–– from film and popular media to gallery based arts. Thomas and Williams have art practices which are grounded in painting, but move through many different media—assemblage and site specific art for Williams, video and social practice for Thomas. Whereas Thomas roots his art in traditions of realistic portraiture that visualize black identities with agency and humanity, Williams looks to the self consciously strange worlds of Dadaist inspired collage, science fiction and street art fantasy to draw attention to the damaging effects of stereotypes and prejudice that have accrued around representations of the black male body. Both artists are deeply interested in language arts, and regularly employ references to both slang and literature. The works of Charles Baudelaire, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison are all alluded to in this exhibition.
The artists regularly show up in each other’s art as both models and subjects, and the works they have selected for this exhibition reflect their evolving collaboration and ongoing conversations. Against a broader cultural tendency that reduces the depiction of black masculine experience to a narrow set of signs aligned with hardness and danger, Thomas and Williams call for seeing black male subjectivity through a lens of tenderness and with greater complexity.