Installation view, Christopher Williams, Provisional Prop, Kino International, Berlin, 2021
Christopher Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1956. Since 2000, his work has been represented by David Zwirner. He has had ten solo exhibitions at the gallery, including his first presentation at the London location in 2013. Footwear (Adapted for Use) was on view in 2020 at the gallery’s East 69th Street location in New York. The solo exhibition standard pose was on view at David Zwirner Paris from November 2021 to January 2022.
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).
In 2019-2020, C/O Berlin presented the solo show Christopher Williams - MODEL: Kochgeschirre, Kinder, Viet Nam (Angepasst zum Benutzen). Other solo exhibitions include those held at Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, Germany (2018); La Triennale di Milano (2017); ETH Zurich, Institute gta, Zurich (2017); Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany (2011); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2011); Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2010); Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (2010); Kunsthalle Zürich (2007); Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2006); Secession, Vienna (2005); Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2005); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1997); and Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1995).
Museum collections which hold works by the artist include The Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; 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 and Los Angeles.
As part of an exhibition at Haubrok Foundation titled werbung: adapted for use, Christopher Williams presented a new film, titled Provisional Prop, at Kino International on 25 June, 2021.
Werbung: Adapted for Use was an exhibition featuring printed matter, works on paper, films, hand-painted signage, and wall coverings by Christopher Williams. For the final 48 hours of the exhibition, 25–27 June, 2021, the exhibition was rehung to present five recent framed photographs by the artist in a presentation titled A 48‑hour Display of Quality Framing Materials. Additionally, on 25 June, 2021, Haubrok Foundation in cooperation with Capitain Petzel premiered the artist’s new film Provisional Prop at Kino International.
This four-volume set of publications focuses on Christopher Williams's theatrical work Stage Play, first presented in 2017 at Miller's Studio in Zürich. Housed in a slipcase, it contains documentation and the playscript for his eponymous play, related publicity and research documents, the artist's series of open letters, and a related interview he conducted with historian Markus Krajewski on the ceramic tile façades of post-war architecture in Cologne. In addition to two critical essays by McDonough, this publication is the largest collection to date of Williams' writing.
February 29–April 26, 2020
The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, 2020, The Lives and Loves of Images, concentrates on the contradictory feelings that photography can evoke—from passionate affection to strong skepticism. In six exhibitions curated by David Campany at six houses in Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, and Heidelberg, contemporary and historical works will be shown by around seventy international artists and photographers. Through a myriad of forms, from traditional darkroom prints to multi-part installations, virtual reality and video projections to large format murals, and handmade or digital collages, each invited artist probes current issues facing photography.
While photography is an art form, it does not belong exclusively to the world of art. It plays significant roles in all aspects of life and culture, making overlaps in its diverse functions inevitable, whether harmonious or tensional. In many ways, it was an acceptance of this complex relationship between art and non-art that led to photography becoming the medium of modernity in the 1920s and 30s. Early pioneers of the medium set the stage for later and continuing explorations in photography’s fluid and contradictory identity. Featuring the works of Christopher Williams, the exhibition Between Art and Commerce explores photography’s intersecting and often ambiguous relationship between commerce and art.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.
As part of his practice as an artist and professor, Christopher Williams's art is founded on historical research, and the manifestations of realism in relationship to theatrical, cinematic, and photographic production from the late '60s and early '70s in in Germany. Thus he inevitably came came across the plays of legendary German author Franz Xaver Kroetz, and this first English language translation of his Play Inklusive (1971) is the product of his curiosity. Inklusive consists of seven scenes of tightly scripted dialogue of a West German couple on a prepaid all-inclusive vacation package in Italy. It is the second part of a new series of books edited, designed and produced by Christopher Williams and his team.
Celebration of Our Enemies: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection
June 9–September 8, 2019
This selection of video, sculpture, and photography from the Hammer’s Contemporary Collection presents an intergenerational group of artists whose works rarely have been exhibited together. The exhibition’s title proposes a conversation between Tony Cokes’s video Black Celebration (A Rebellion Against the Commodity) (1988) and Stephen Prina and Christopher Williams’s early collaboration The Construction and Maintenance of Our Enemies (1986–87). These two projects were produced within a year of one another, but, until now, they haven’t had the pleasure of each other’s company. Cokes’s seminal video offers a way to read and understand the uprisings that took place in black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Boston, Newark, and Detroit in the 1960s. Prina and Williams’s photographic series considers, in part, the ideological function of botanical taxonomy and the circulation of images. Both works embody an approach that came to prominence in the 1980s in which artists self-consciously applied the tenets and strategies of Conceptual art to a social and political critique of media. Inheriting this legacy, subsequent generations of artists, such as Klara Lidén, Sondra Perry, and Martine Syms, have taken on the task of redefining their relationships to culture, politics, and the industries and institutions that take part in art’s presentation, preservation, and commodification. Celebration of Our Enemies embraces the concept of the enemy as an inherent part of art’s character and provides a context in which friends and enemies, collaborators and competitors, lovers, and loved ones, can cohabitate in the warm glow of the museum’s galleries.
Celebration of Our Enemies: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection is organized by Aram Moshayedi, curator, with Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, curatorial assistant.
John L. Grahm
Juan José Gurrola
Lynn Hershman Leeson
Stephen Prina and Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams . MODEL: Kochgeschirre, Kinder, Viet Nam (Angepasst zum Benutzen)
December 7, 2019–February 29, 2020
Christopher Williams . MODEL: Kochgeschirre, Kinder, Viet Nam (Angepasst zum Benutzen) used the terminology of theater to restage three rooms from previous exhibitions by Christopher Williams, including at Wiels Center for Contemporary Art in Brussels, Galerie Nächst St. Stephan in Vienna, and a solo booth at the Frieze Art Fair in New York. In addition to replicating these presentations within the terms of a new exhibition at C/O Berlin, each physical element of the photographs was also reconsidered, reprinted in a different size, and framed with different materials. Each of the rooms at C/O Berlin presented adaptations of these earlier permutations, underlining the exhibition format itself as a medium. A fourth room in the exhibition at C/O Berlin included a display of materials on loan from the archives of Bertolt Brecht, Guy Debord, Harun Farocki, Peter Weiss, and Edward Weston, building a historical ground for a discussion about adaptation, modeling, and the reuse of existing images.
The photographs on display included the genres of portraiture, still life, and street photography, with subjects ranging from camera lenses, a stage set, shop-window displays, an African mask, and the staging of professional models for the production of their own image. These photographs are also often made based on existing images or image types, adapting and isolating fragments from our image world at large, reframing them for an analysis of the terms under which our culture produces and consumes them.
David Zwirner participated in Frieze New York 2019 with a dual presentation of new works created specifically for the fair by Harold Ancart and Christopher Williams.
Christopher Williams’s work critically investigates the medium of photography and the transformations of industrial and post-industrial culture, focusing particularly on the structures of representation and classification in modern society. Kochgeschirr Adapted for Use, the artist’s presentation at Frieze New York, was an adaptation of Williams’s theater production Stage Play, which was presented in Zurich in May 2017. The elements of this restaging included five new photographs, which are themselves adaptations and restagings of themes and imagery that the artist has previously explored; two silkscreen posters; a modular wall; a suite of Franz West–designed furniture; and the David Zwirner sales team, who were repurposed as the theater troupe.
Images: Christopher Williams, Model Cookware Adapted for Use at Frieze New York, 2019. Photos by Dan Bradica
Christopher Williams spoke as part of The Exhibition as Medium, a day of talks organized by London-based writer, curator, and artist David Campany during Paris Photo. "Photographic artists often look beyond the single image to the body of work—the set, the suite, the series, the album the archive and the typology," Campany writes in the introduction to the program; "In recent years many have extended this idea even further, into the gallery space, turning the exhibition itself into their medium. . . . The photograph itself is only one part of how they understand their work. At the same time, progressive museums and galleries have developed innovative strategies for presenting photographic material."
Saturday, November 10, 2 PM (part of a ticketed event)
Auditorium, Level 1, Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Paris
Williams, whose practice investigates conventions of pictorial production and presentation, has expressed an interest in establishing a more "mobile" position as an artist, alternately acting as "camera operator, picture editor, exhibition designer, graphic designer." "Christopher Williams breaks all the rules," Sean O’Hagan writes in a review of The Production Line of Happiness, Williams’s critically acclaimed survey that traveled from the Art Institute of Chicago to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and London’s Whitechapel Gallery from 2014 to 2015; "For a start, some of the walls have been flown in from his recent show in Germany—and the captions on the works are from the Whitechapel’s previous show, Adventures of the Black Square. The confusion these now-random captions cause for the viewer are as integral to the exhibition as the hanging of the prints."
October 11–December 16, 2018
From its very first line, The Artist is Present is an act of appropriation, taking its name from Marina Abramovic’s celebrated 2010 solo show at MoMA. Curated by Maurizio Cattelan, this exhibition explores the complex relationship between image and reality, representation and presentation, which has been one of the most important topics in art. The Artist is Present focuses on artist’s projects that propose simulation and copy as a paradigm of global culture. The title itself aims at demonstrating how the act of copying can be considered a noble act of creation, featuring the same artistic value as the original. Featuring a selection of more than thirty artists, foreign and Chinese, the exhibition will show both site-specific and existing works that question the most hallowed principles of art in the modern era: originality, intention, and expression. In an era where everything is reproduced, nothing truly keeps the aura of originality, suggesting the urgency to overcome an old concept of counterfeit in favor of a new way to conceive copy as an indispensable tool for facing our contemporary society.
In The Artist is Present the nature of the creative process itself results in deconstruction, and with it, the idea of godlike creation: the only belief remains the conviction that originality is overrated. Artists included: John Ahearn (with Rigoberto Torres), John Armleder, Nina Beier, Brian Belott, Anne Collier, Jose Dávila, Wim Delvoye, Eric Doeringer, Sayre Gomez, Andy Hung Chi-Kin, Matt Johnson, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Kapwani Kiwanga, Ragnar Kjartansson, Josh Kline, Louise Lawler, Margaret Lee, Hannah Levy, Lu Pingyuan, Ma Jun, Nevine Mahmoud, Aleksandra Mir, Pentti Monkkonen, Philippe Parreno, Jon Rafman, Mika Rottenberg, Reena Spaulings, Sturtevant, Superflex, Oscar Tuazon, Kaari Upson, Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner, Christopher Williams, XU ZHEN®, Yan Pei-Ming, Damon Zucconi.
Christopher Williams: Normative Models continued the artist’s active investigation of conventions of pictorial production and presentation. Seven key photographs were displayed within a system of eleven freestanding wall works that intervened in the architecture of the exhibition space, underscoring Williams’s self-described interest in establishing a more "mobile" position as an artist, alternately acting as "camera operator, picture editor, exhibition designer, graphic designer." Curated by Christina Végh and Lea Altner, Normative Models marked the artist’s first solo exhibition in Hanover.
Deeply political and historical, Christopher Williams’s (b. 1956) photographs evoke a subtle shift in our perception by questioning the communication mechanisms and aesthetic conventions that influence our understanding of reality. Deploying a style of photography that references multiple sources and precedents, including the carefully composed and well-lit images of the 1920s New Objectivity movement, the photo-conceptualism that he encountered as a student at CalArts in the 1970s, and the advertisement industry, Williams creates layered works that critically, but also playfully, reveal the conditions of the medium in post-industrial society.
Williams, who is originally from Los Angeles, is currently professor of photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The artist has presented a number of solo exhibitions under the title Christopher Williams. For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle, versions of which have been shown in Germany at the Kunstverein Braunschweig (2005), the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2010), and the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2011). Williams’s work was first presented in Hanover as part of group exhibitions at the Sprengel Museum in the early 1990s.
The artist’s first major museum retrospective, Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness, traveled from The Art Institute of Chicago to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and London’s Whitechapel Gallery from 2014 to 2015. For The New York Times critic Roberta Smith, viewing the show in New York, the exhibition conveyed "the complexity of Mr. Williams’s achievement and of art making itself with a wondrous lucidity."
Image: Installation view, Christopher Williams: Normative Models, kestnergesellschaft, Hanover, 2018. Photo by Raimund Zakowski.
Jump into the future – Art from the 90’s and 2000’s. The Borgmann Donation
November 26, 2017–March 4, 2018
Four works—Supplement* 1990 (1989—a portfolio containing eight works), Angola to Vietnam*, 1989 (1989), Figure I-III, Accretions (1992), and Brasil, 1989 (1988)—as well as two catalogues by Christopher Williams were included in the exhibition Jump into the future – Art from the 90’s and 2000’s. The Borgmann Donation at the Stedelijk Museum. The exhibition was a group presentation of works dating from the 1990s and early 2000s from the collection of Thomas Borgmann. The exhibition’s title aimed to reflect Borgmann's prescience in acquiring works by a new generation of artists.
Jump into the future followed Borgmann's donation to the Stedelijk of more than 600 works in 2016, which also included work by fellow gallery artists Isa Genzken and Wolfgang Tillmans. "I have closely followed the Stedelijk ever since my first visit in the 1960s," Borgmann, who is German, said in a statement following the announcement of the donation, "This museum felt like a natural home for these works." Williams's Angola to Vietnam (1989) is highlighted in news of the donation published in Artnet.
September 15–December 2, 2017
Works by Christopher Williams featured in la > x, an exhibition and film festival at the Haubrok Foundation's FAHRBEREITSCHAFT project space to mark the 50th anniversary of the city partnership between Berlin and Los Angeles.
The exhibition included ephemera such as invitations, texts, publications, and posters pertaining to Williams's work.
You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred
March 30–July 9, 2017
Three works were included in You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred, a group exhibition exploring how artists have used the camera to blur boundaries between past and present, fact and fiction. The exhibition also featured works by fellow gallery artists Thomas Ruff and Wolfgang Tillmans.
The title of the exhibition was taken from a conversation between the artists Jeff Wall and Lucas Blalock in which they argue for art that is experimental and mysterious. Drawn exclusively from the Zabludowicz Collection, the works in the exhibition spanned 1977 to the present day.
You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred was accompanied by a fully illustrated publication with texts by Paul Luckraft and David Campany and a round-table discussion moderated by Chris Wiley featuring Lucas Blalock, Sara Cwynar, and Erin Shirreff. Published by the Zabludowicz Collection
Read more: reviews of the exhibition in Elephant Magazine, Wallpaper, and Time Out London, which gave it four stars.
Christopher Williams. Supplements, Models, Prototypes
March 1–June 12, 2017
Christopher Williams. Supplements, Models, Prototypes presented recent work by the artist, who is the first participant in the new Visiting Artist program at ETH Zurich University's Department of Architecture.
Supplements, Models, Prototypes was the first exhibition to focus exclusively on exhibition walls, which are a central element of Williams's work. The exhibition presented a group of five walls drawn from prior exhibitions including Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness, the artist's first major museum survey which travelled from The Art Institute of Chicago to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and London's Whitechapel Gallery in 2014-2015.
Williams often intervenes with the architecture of his exhibition spaces. His first installation of a temporary wall was for his 1991 solo exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler in Cologne, where he had a new wall built directly in front of an existing one.
May 22–24, 2017
The shop window occupies its own genre in photography, from Eugène Atget to Zoe Leonard. In Williams's new theater production Stage Play, the shop window and the storefront are the primary characters. Set in the streets of postwar Düsseldorf, this tense drama deals with the accumulation of contingent material suggestive of the quiet persistence of war.
This was the last in a series of shows by Williams since January 2017 that have engaged different aspects of his work, including collage, architecture, photography, publications, sculpture, and now theater.
Stage Play, Williams's first theater production, was created in dialogue with the artist's concurrent exhibition at gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich.
April 28–June 25, 2017
Christopher Williams: Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements presented the artist's work as part of La Triennale di Milano. The exhibition featured photographs combined with staging elements that were used in his recent exhibitions, and explored how these are interconnected within his practice.
Williams's critically-acclaimed 2014-2015 retrospective, The Production Line of Happiness, was exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Whitechapel Gallery in London.
Recent publications include Christopher Williams: Printed in Germany, and Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness.
April 20–August 13, 2017
The Absent Museum looked back over the history of WIELS and towards its future development in honor of the art center's 10th anniversary. Included were works by gallery artists Francis Alÿs, Marlene Dumas, Isa Genzken, Oscar Murillo, Wolfgang Tillmans, Luc Tuymans, and Christopher Williams.
Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness
The Production Line of Happiness, the major survey of work by Christopher Williams, travelled from The Art Institute of Chicago to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and London's Whitechapel Gallery in 2014 – 2015.
The exhibition’s title is borrowed from a 1967 documentary by French director Jean-Luc Godard, in which an amateur filmmaker describes the process of editing his films of the Swiss countryside as "the production line of happiness." In Williams's work, "production" applies not only to the creation of images, but also to how images produce the experiences and objects that are consumed as part of a materialist society. As he explained in an interview with dis magazine during the MoMA exhibition, "An idea that is very interesting to me right now is to adopt a model and stay as closely as possible to that model . . . to inhabit a way of seeing."
In William’s critique, the visual conventions that surround us are co-opted, and often undercut with a vague sense of humor or nostalgia. The Production Line of Happiness included photographs of a bouquet of flowers, a stack of unwrapped Ritter Sport chocolate bars, a dishwasher, dewy red apples, and a model wearing a glib smile and a towel as if fresh from the shower. In the last of these, a Kodak color chart appears on the left of the image as if to expose its workings. In her review for The New York Times, Roberta Smith wrote that the exhibition "conveys the complexity of Mr. Williams's achievement and of art making itself with a wondrous lucidity."
The exhibition was accompanied by two conceptual publications created in collaboration with the artist. The first, entitled The Production Line of Happiness, is equal parts artist's book and exhibition publication, and includes texts by the curators Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, and Matthew S. Witkovsky. The second, Printed in Germany, is an artist's book extending Williams's ideas into published form. Williams was the first artist to receive the Photography Catalogue of the Year, presented by the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, for these publications.
The Production Line of Happiness and Printed in Germany
In 2014, Christopher Williams collaborated on the production of publications in conjunction with his first major museum survey, The Production Line of Happiness. This critically acclaimed exhibition traveled from The Art Institute of Chicago to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 2014 – 2015.
Entitled The Production Line of Happiness, the first volume is equal parts artist's book and exhibition publication. Made in cooperation with the museums, the book features texts by the curators Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, and Matthew S. Witkovsky exploring Williams's engagement with his artistic peers and predecessors, with cinema, and with models of display and publicity in the art world. Also included is the transcript of a talk Williams delivered on the work of John Chamberlain. These more conventional contributions are "interrupted" by additional historical and contemporary materials which were selected by Williams himself and are sometimes presented in facsimile form. An exhibition history, bibliography, and illustrated list of works complete the publication, which has been produced in three colors—yellow, red, and green. Co-published by the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, and Whitechapel Gallery
Following the exhibition publication which relies more heavily on text than image, Printed in Germany is an artist's book conceived as a stand-alone visual object that extends Williams's conceptual and aesthetic ideas into book form. The publication reproduces a selection of Williams's photographs and features striking graphic design, with no essay, captions, or even a title page. Like The Production Line of Happiness, Printed in Germany has been produced in yellow, red, and green versions. Published by Walther König, Cologne
Williams was the first artist to receive the Photography Catalogue of the Year, presented by the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, for The Production Line of Happiness and Printed in Germany.