Gerald Williams

Installation Views

(b. 1941) Chicago, IL

Gerald Williams is an American painter whose work explores culture, place and identity from a global perspective. Williams is a co-founder of AFRICOBRA, an artist collective formed on the south side of Chicago in 1967, which became the definitive visual expression of the Black Arts Movement. Over time, his work has evolved into a polyrythmic representation of life at the intersection of figuration and abstraction, defined by what he calls “mimesis at midpoint.”


Williams distills the visual language of time, place, culture and identity in order to express the essence of reality in an aesthetically contemplative way. While a member of AFRICOBRA, he engaged in ongoing conversations with the group about how best to express their environment, their culture, and their moment in history. Those conversations resulted in the creation of iconic representations of contemporary Black culture. When Williams later traveled and worked in Africa, he continued that practice of aesthetic distillation while opening himself up to new techniques, materials and processes. The quiet nights in Nairobi; the rich colors of African clothing and architecture; the dynamic rhythms of life in the country and the city: all of these things transformed his aesthetic approach, and set him on a new path toward the polyrythmic aesthetic he maintains today, which reflects his global vision of the human condition.

Exhibition History

2020 Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL

The Figure in Solitude, online exhibition, Kavi Gupta

Tell Me Your Story, Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, Netherlands

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX

2019 Down Time: On The Art Of Retreat, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

AFRICOBRA: Nation Time, Venice Biennale (official collateral exhibition), Venice, Italy

Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy, The Met Breuer, NY, USA

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, The Broad, Los Angeles, CA; SFMOMA, SF, CA

2018 AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Miami, FL

AFRICOBRA 50, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL

The Time is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960-1980, Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (upcoming)

AFRICOBRA: Now, Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York, NY

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AR

2017 Gerald Williams, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern, London, UK

2016Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA

2015 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

2014 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

2013 Logan Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL

2008 Picolo Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC

African Festival of the Arts, Chicago, IL

2007 Sumter County Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC

2003 Ramo Grande Auditorium

1995 Sumter County Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC

University of South Carolina, Sumter, SC

1988 Songtan City Cultural Center, Songtan, Korea

1983 District of Columbia City Hall, Washington DC

1982 Alma Thomas Gallery, Washington DC

U.S Department of the Navy, Washington DC

Moton Institute, Gloucester, VA

1981  NOA Gallery, Washington DC

Lansburgh Cultural Center, Washington DC

Galerie LaTaj, Alexandria, VA

1980 United Nations Secretariat

Museum of African American Art, Buffalo, NY

Lamont Zeno Gallery, Chicago, IL

Smith-Mason Gallery, Washington DC

American Cultural Center, Dakar, Senegal

1979 French Cultural Center, Nairobi, Kenya

2nd New World Festival of the African Diaspora, Port of Prince, Haiti

Miami University, Oxford, OH

Frick Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

1977 2nd World Black & African Festival of Arts and Culture, Lagos, Nigeria

1975 Center for the Study of Negro Life and History, Washington DC

Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1973 University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Southside Community Center, Chicago, IL

Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington DC

1972 Rainbow Sign Gallery, Oakland, CA

Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

Malcolm X College, Chicago, IL

1971 PUSH EXPO (Operation Push), Chicago, IL

Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY

Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY

Haiti Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Langston Hughes Center for Visual & Performing Arts, Buffalo, NY

National Center for Afro-American Culture, Boston, MA

State University of New York, Albany, NY

1970 Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, IL

1969 WJ Studi and Gallery, Chicago, IL

Chicago State University, Chicago, IL

1968 Southside Community Art Center, Chicago, IL

Art and Soul Gallery, Chicago, IL





Please join us for a discussion with Rebecca Zorach and Gerald Williams on the occasion of Williams’ first solo exhibition with Kavi Gupta.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Chicago was shaped by art and ideas produced and circulated on the South Side.

Yet the history of the period’s creative and social ferment has often remained segregated by the city’s social, political, and geographic divides. This exhibition—organized by the Smart Museum of Art in collaboration with the DuSable Museum of African American History and other cultural partners and presented concurrently with the DuSable’s exhibition South Side Stories: Holdings—takes a nuanced look at the cultural history of Chicago’s South Side during this momentous era of change and conflict, with a focus on artists of the Black Arts Movement.

Through nearly 100 objects, the show aims to upend dominant narratives of the period and to unearth rich stories by examining watershed cultural moments from the Hairy Who to the Wall of Respect, from the Civil Rights movement to the AfriCOBRA, from vivid protest posters to visionary outsider art, and from the Free University movement to the radical jazz of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

This exhibition is presented as part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This exhibition has been made possible in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art and and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and by the Smart Museum’s Pamela and R. Christopher Hoehn-Saric Exhibition Fund. Additional support has been provided by the Museum’s SmartPartners.

Presented in the Robert and Joan Feitler Gallery, the Joel and Carole Bernstein Gallery, and the Edward A. and Inge Maser Gallery.

/Dialogues at EXPO CHICAGO

Symposium | Present Histories:
Art & Design in Chicago

Friday, September 28, 2018.

AfriCOBRA: Chicago in the Age of Black Power

This panel is presented in alignment with Art Design Chicago exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art and the DuSable Museum of African American History, “South Side Stories: Rethinking Chicago Art, 1960–1980” and “South Side Stories: Holdings”, which focuses on the Black Arts Movement—from the Civil Rights Movement to AfriCOBRA.