On Sunday, May 1st, as part of our closing reception for It Can See You, a exhibition of paintings from artist Brittney Leeanne Williams, we joined the the artist for a discussion of her work.
The paintings in this exhibit are part of a larger series entitled Leisure and the Unseen, which interrogates the construction of white privilege and leisure through the policing and containment of the black subject. In the Leisure and the Unseen series, Williams creates a fresh and surprising visual language to address current events surrounding race-based state violence. Driven largely by color and form, the paintings mine influences as varied as the color palette of Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter’s landscapes, and historical photographs of lynchings.
While the paintings are figurative, Williams’ concerns are deeply conceptual. Rather than highlighting Blacks as subjects, Williams seeks to reveal the act of not seeing, specifically hegemonic blindness to the constitutive violence of racial boundaries and barriers.
In It Can See You, Williams re-envisions a White Power image, the KKK hooded-figure, and casts it as the personification of privilege. As she emasculates and re-contextualizes this iconic figure, Williams explores the ambiguities of power rooted in privilege and the lack of insight of those who benefit from it.