In the 1970s, Christopher Williams studied at the California Institute of the Arts under the first wave of West Coast conceptual artists, including John Baldessari and Douglas Huebler, only to become one of his generation's leading conceptualists. Williams's work is a critical investigation of the medium of photography and more broadly the vicissitudes of industrial culture, in particular its structures of representation and classification. Using the process of reproduction as a point of entry, the artist manipulates the conventions of advertising, the superficiality of surface, and ultimately the history of Modernism. Deeply political, historical, and sometimes personal, the photographs are meant to evoke a subtle shift in our perception by questioning the communication mechanisms and aesthetic conventions that influence our understanding of reality.
Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1956. Since 2000, his work has been represented by David Zwirner. He has had seven solo exhibitions at the gallery, including his first presentation at the London location in 2013. Opening March 17, 2017, the gallery in London will present Open Letter: The Family Drama Refunctioned? (From the Point of View of Production), a solo exhibition of the artist's new work.
Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness marked the artist's first major museum survey, which spanned thirty-five years of work. The exhibition was first on view at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, followed by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Whitechapel Gallery, London in 2015. Also in 2014, Williams was the first artist to receive the Photography Catalogue of the Year, presented by the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, for the two volumes specially designed and published on the occasion of his touring survey, The Production Line of Happiness (exhibition catalogue) and Printed in Germany (artist book).
Other recent solo exhibitions include those held at Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (both 2011); Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (both 2010); Kunsthalle Zürich (2007); Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2006); Secession, Vienna; and Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (both 2005).
Museum collections which hold works by the artist include Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He lives and works in Cologne, Chicago, and Los Angeles.