Bernard Williams

Bernard Williams is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He holds a BFA degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, 1987. Williams has been teaching art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1991.

The artist has been commissioned to create many large-scale outdoor murals in Chicago and in other cities. Mural commissions have been sponsored by a range of organizations and corporations including AT&T; GATX Corporation; Kraft Foods; the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; and the Jackson Public School District, Jackson, Mississippi. He is represented by the Jan Cicero Gallery in Chicago and the G.R. N’Namdi Gallery in Detroit. He is a member of the Senior Artist Circle of Chicago Public Art Group.

Williams has received recognition both regionally and nationally. In 2003, Williams was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Grant of $7000. In 2001, the artist was among 20 artists from Chicago and San Francisco to be awarded a $10,000 grant to continue studio work. He has been featured at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi (2001) and the African-American Museum in Dallas, Texas (2002). Selected group exhibitions include the Chicago Cultural Center (2002), the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston (2001), Dowd Fine Arts Gallery, Cortland, New York (2002), and the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana (1999).

Bernard Williams Artist Statement

My work originates from a "museum aesthetic." I attempt to appropriate some of the formal practice of museums. These institutions around the world hold and collect vast stores of objects, images, and information. Materials are displayed or held carefully out of sight.

My recent works display fragments and personal discoveries that are then presented with familiar material. They are highly graphic, congested diagrams that mimic historical collections. The works investigate symbolic and associative histories. They are themselves neither histories, chronologies, nor taxonomies. The interpretations are impulsive and intuitive. They are attempts to manage the overwhelming complexities of constructing histories that evoke radically differing worldviews.

The stories are various, intriguing, and enlightening. Time barriers are crossed, intersected, and allowed to coexist in a single work. The viewer encounters some familiar and some foreign characters in this documentary play. I shovel through aspects of American history and related stories. Issues, events, and ideas are illustrated to speak about the continuity and complexities of a nation’s life. My critique of history and culture is often subtle. History is personally incorporated and relived. The past is never over and always beginning, altering the model of history and creating the past anew.

Similar ideas are apparent with the outdoor murals that I have done. These projects however, involve a more open process that allows collaboration with high school students, community members, and other artists.

Urban World at the Crossroads,  1997, acrylic on brick, by Bernard Williams and John Pitman Weber.

Urban World at the Crossroads, 1997, acrylic on brick, by Bernard Williams and John Pitman Weber.

Dragon Wall,  2002, acrylic on aluminum panels, by Bernard Williams.

Dragon Wall, 2002, acrylic on aluminum panels, by Bernard Williams.