Christopher Williams

By Criqui, Jean-Pierre | Artforum International, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Christopher Williams


Criqui, Jean-Pierre, Artforum International


LE MAGASIN, GRENOBLE

For example: What relationship is there between a French car from the '6os, a Japanese student posing for a fashion photo in 1993, papayas (of the Carica papaya Linne sort), and a dishwasher tray filled with brightly colored plates? This is the sort of question raised by Christopher Williams's first solo exhibition in a French institution, "Couleur Europeenne, Couleur Sovierique, Couleur Chinoise" (European color, Soviet color, Chinese color)--a title that is already somewhat confusing in light of the images presented. What was found on the walls of Le Magasin's rooms, hung ("orchestrated," one wants to say) at reduced height and with irregular spacing, were sixty or so photographs in black-and white and color. (I counted sixty-one, though the brochure available at the entrance to the space mentioned sixty-four, an ambiguity that could no doubt be easily resolved but that gives some sense of how difficult it is to come up with a reliable reconstruction of the show.) Some of the photographs have previously been shown and/or reproduced, others have not. Hence the feeling that one is in the presence of a "state" of a project--in the sense of, say, the nth "state" of an engraving--that is undergoing constant expansion and modification, rather than a totality that has been completed once and for all. What this might be, then, is an extension of For Example: Die Welt ist schon, the work undertaken by Williams in 1993 (whose title refers to the famous book published by Albert Renger-Patzsch in 1928), which had several versions and notably gave rise to "For Example: Die Welt ist schoen" at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and the Kunsthalle Basel in 1997. (The aforementioned papayas were pictured in one of the images shown there that reappear in Grenoble.) Let's accept this hypothesis and try to grasp a few strands of the narrative that seems to have been assembled here.

The first room, perhaps, constituted the core from which the viewer could begin to deduce or develop the rest of this "album mural." It contained four photographs, each to varying degrees emblematic of the whole construction it introduces, each endowed with its own reflexivity. Mobile wall system, 1996--I am abbreviating the often extremely long inscriptions that serve as titles to Williams's works, which are meticulously presented in their entirety on small cards next to the images--is an interior view of the Boijmans, showing how the arrangement of some of the institution's partitions can be transformed at will. The image alludes at once to the artist's 1997 exhibition as well as to the modularity with which the work is endowed, each image or group of images forming a cell that can be integrated and reintegrated into a new set of connections. This figure of a general, ineluctable nomadism finds echoes in the nearby Main Staircase for the Arts Club of Chicago, 1998. The image features the eponymous element from Mies van der Rohe's corpus, built between 1948 and 1951 and later moved to another part of Chicago. …

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