Kandis Williams - Press Release | David Zwirner

David Zwirner is pleased to open 52 Walker, a new David Zwirner gallery programmed by Ebony L. Haynes, on October 28. The inaugural exhibition, A Line, will feature works by Kandis Williams, whose versatile practice spans collage, performance, video, assemblage, and installation. Her work interrogates issues of race, nationalism, authority, and eroticism. This will be Williams’s first solo presentation in New York.

Based primarily in Los Angeles, Williams will debut new works that were created in New York for A Line. The exhibition will feature a video, collages, and sculptures that move toward a formal dance notation. Notation has been used in different modes throughout history to capture and inscribe the qualities of movement in two dimensions. Williams draws upon her background in dramaturgy to envision a space that accommodates the varied biopolitical economies that inform how movement might be read. She establishes indices that network the parts of the anatomy, regions of Black diaspora, communication and obfuscation, and how popular culture and myth are interconnected. 

Laying out a multipronged matrix, Williams introduces four “forks” that she has charted in her history of dance to unspool its white supremacist underpinnings. The first is the anthropological and social understanding of dance as a part of healing, ritual, and entertainment. The second is the “dance of death”: how martial forms emerged as a response to how societies have been organized. The third is an appraisal of courtly dance, which has heavily shaped ballet and modern dance as we understand it today. The final fork looks at contemporary movement and the intellectual property of dance.

The exhibited works traffic between these forks to shape an alternative language that suggests how Black moving bodies are regarded. The video will focus on markings and inscriptions that elaborate individual, collective, and historiographic schema from stage diagrams to astrological charts. A series of plant sculptures will feature representations of Black pinups, whose bodies turning away from the viewer are antithetical to the frontal, balletic positionality of contemporary dancers. The collage works will combine images that reference the ghosts of dance’s past, present, and future—subverting what oppressive structures might term “influence,” but what others might see as brutal appropriation.

A Line
follows Williams’s 2020–2021 solo presentation A Field at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, which considered the tango through the transatlantic slave trade, prison labor, and horticulture through patterns of migration. Recasting history to evade hegemonic frameworks, Williams makes visible the inexpressible violence to which Black bodies have been subject in dance and beyond. 

Clarion, the 52 Walker publication series from David Zwirner Books, will be releasing an accompanying exhibition catalogue featuring contributions by Haynes, artist and writer Hannah Black, and a conversation between Williams and the choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili. Additionally, Williams will contribute notes on the work and bibliographical references. 

About Kandis Williams 

Kandis Williams was born in 1985 in Baltimore and received her BFA from Cooper Union in New York in 2009. She is the founder of the publishing and educational platform Cassandra Press. In 2021, Williams was granted the prestigious Mohn Award by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

In 2020, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, opened Kandis Williams: A Field, the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition, as part of the museum’s Provocations commission series. The exhibition was curated by Amber Esseiva and featured a site-responsive installation.

Williams has presented solo exhibitions at Night Gallery, Los Angeles (2021 and 2016); Cooper Cole, Toronto (2018); Works on Paper, Vienna (2017); St. Charles Projects, Baltimore (2016); and SADE, Los Angeles (2016). Iterations of Williams’s ongoing body of work Eurydice, a project that was profiled in Artforum in March 2020, have been presented at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2019); NAVEL, Los Angeles (2018); and as part of Triptyque, organized by Alex Zhang Hungtai for the Red Bull Music Festival Montréal (2018). In 2018, Williams was included in A Woman’s Work, an event series organized by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

Work by Williams has also been included in significant group exhibitions, most recently in the 2020 Made in L.A. biennial at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, for which the artist presented a new body of large-scale collages alongside earlier works. Other group exhibitions that have included Williams’s work were presented by the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, Rancho Cucamonga, California (2019); Frye Art Museum, Seattle (2018); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015); and the Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2014), among others. 

Williams is represented by Night Gallery, Los Angeles. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.

About 52 Walker 

52 Walker is a David Zwirner gallery space programmed and led by Director Ebony L. Haynes. The gallery takes its name from its location at 52 Walker Street in Tribeca, and occupies the first and lower floors of the five-story landmark building. 52 Walker will function differently than the other David Zwirner locations. The gallery’s exhibition schedule will resemble that of a kunsthalle with longer presentation  timelines allowing visitors to engage with the works and show programming for the duration of a season. Departing from the traditional commercial gallery format, Haynes’s personal curatorial practice, which focuses on conceptual and research-based artists from a range of backgrounds and stages in their careers, will be a trademark of the space. An edition of Clarion, the gallery’s publication, will accompany each exhibition, highlighting scholarship and research on the exhibiting artists.

Press contact: 
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