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New work by Michael Williams at CMOA

Contact: Jonathan Gaugler,, 412.688.8690 / 412.216.7909

Michael Williams
Forum 78
April 21–August 27, 2017
Carnegie Museum of Art

Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) announces Michael Williams, opening April 21, 2017, the 78th installment in the museum’s Forum Series. Featuring a suite of new paintings and a series of drawings, the presentation is Williams’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States.

High resolution images are available.

Abstract image of a boy dreaming about lacrosse in a lecture about global warming

Michael Williams, “Purple Shebdy,” 2015, oil, airbrush, and inkjet on canvas, 108 x 85 in. Courtesy of the artist; CANADA, New York; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, © Michael Williams

Over the last 10 years, Michael Williams has created paintings known for their layered imagery, eye-popping color, and use of techniques such as airbrushing and inkjet printing. His large-scale works often begin as drawings either on paper or on the computer screen before they are printed or transferred to canvas and then embellished with oil paint. The narrative content of Williams’s work reveals his dark sense of humor and exploration of the role of the painter as observer. Three large canvases in the exhibition, for example, develop from the same scene from one of the artist’s drawings: a student seated in a classroom daydreaming about lacrosse during a lecture about global warming. Williams’s wickedly funny allegories merge with abstract painting and amoebic shapes, which sometimes fill the entirety of his canvases. The resulting works offer the eye a dense and absorbing terrain of color and form. Pushing his experiments with a large-scale latex printer one step further, Williams also presents two paintings that are wholly printed in contrast to his works in oil paint.

Upstairs in CMOA’s Scaife Galleries, which house the museum’s collection, a satellite installation of Williams’s “puzzle drawings” reveals a different aspect of the artist’s process. Since 2010, Williams has traveled with photocopies of his own drawings. While on the road, he cuts up and collages these copies to make new works on paper. The rough outline of a jigsaw puzzle piece is a consistent motif in the ongoing series; Williams also uses it as a tool for pure visual invention. Creating gaps in his preexisting imagery, the puzzle shape allows him to discover new forms of abstraction between recognizable things.

Abstract line drawing with puzzle-piece like shapes cut out and re-drawn

Michael Williams, “untitled puzzle drawing,” 2016, ink and photocopy collage on paper, 12 x 9 in., Courtesy of the artist; CANADA, New York; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, © Michael Williams

Michael Williams is organized by Eric Crosby, Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Carnegie Museum of Art.

About the Artist
Michael Williams was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 1978 and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2000. Since that time, he has exhibited widely at institutions and venues in North America and Europe. In recent years, he has presented solo exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Gladstone Gallery, Brussels; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; CANADA, New York; VeneKlasen/Werner, Berlin; and Michael Werner Gallery, London. Additionally, his work has been featured in notable group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas; Secession, Vienna; and the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow. Williams lives and works in Los Angeles.


Related Events

Opening Reception, Thursday, April 20, 7–8 p.m., CMOA Forum Gallery
Be the first to see CMOA’s newest exhibition. Join the artist Michael Williams and exhibition curator Eric Crosby for an in-gallery conversation about contemporary painting and the creative process. Free and open to the public.

Third Thursday, Thursday April 20, 8–11 p.m., CMOA
Stay after the opening reception for our monthly late-night hours. Advance: $10, members $8, students $5; Door: $15, members and students $10. Opening reception attendees $5.

Gallery Guide App
Visitors to the museum may also hear from the artist directly. Williams has selected highlights from CMOA’s world-class painting collection and shared his impressions in a sequence of audio recordings for the museum’s Gallery Guide app. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History’s Gallery Guide app may be downloaded at (search: CMOA).

Exhibition Catalogue
Michael Williams is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by CMOA and distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. Contents include a text by exhibition curator Eric Crosby and an interview with the artist by art historian Suzanne Hudson. Available July 2017. For pre-order inquiries, please call the CMOA Store at 412.622.3216.

Funding for the Forum series is generously provided by the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by the Carnegie Museum of Art Fellows and the Ruth Levine Memorial Fund. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Support for the exhibition catalogue is generously provided by CANADA, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

About the Forum Series
CMOA’s Forum Series is a dynamic program of exhibitions by some of today’s most innovative contemporary artists. Initiated in 1990, the series, which is presented in a dedicated gallery just off the museum’s main lobby, remains a vital aspect of CMOA’s contemporary program. It has presented more than 75 exhibitions since its inception, many of which have been museum debuts for artists who have gone on it achieve international renown. Artists featured in past Forum exhibitions include Jeff Wall, Yasumasa Morimura, Ann Hamilton, Thaddeus Mosley, Kiki Smith, Mel Bochner, Rivane Neuenschwander, Ragnar Kjartansson, Cory Arcangel, Alison Knowles, and many others.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Carnegie Museum of Art enriches people’s lives through art. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Our core activities—collecting, conserving, presenting, and interpreting works of art—make those experiences possible. Our world-class collection of over 30,000 works emphasizes art, architecture, photography, and design from the 19th century to the present. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. Learn more: call 412.622.3131 or visit