November 30, 2023-January 10, 2024
Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Brittney Leeanne Williams: Huddle. This exhibition will open Thursday, November 30, 2023 with a 5-7 pm reception at the gallery (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY).
Brittney Leeanne Williams’s latest conceptual inventions further her exploration of the body in space in relation to architecture and the natural world. Williams continues her inquiry into the monumental, symbolic feminine through color, abstraction, and landscape, inspired by artists including Laura Aguilar, Louise Bourgeois, Iona Rozeal Brown, and Georgia O’Keefe. In Huddle, Williams draws visual links between domes, huddles of people, and tulips in her signature bold, surreal colors—often featuring a siren red. Having recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, closer to her family and where she grew up in Southern California, this exhibition celebrates the beauty of togetherness. Williams calls this new body of work: “what I’ve come to think of as the shape of community.”
In contrast to many of her previous paintings, none of the figures in this exhibition appear alone. For instance, Williams’s largest work in the show Passing Dance: Bougainvillea, depicts three figures marching forward in unison, leaping across the canvas from left to right. Most of these figures’ bodies are covered by stripes suggesting fences, bars, or guard rails, yet their feet are not behind these bars, as if they are breaking free of their constraints. Her triptych A Passing Dance: A Tulip Dome Sits Atop a Bent Back features a similar momentum, but here, each figure’s arched niche carries a Tulip Dome. From left to right, the sun sets beyond the figure, and the tulip blooms. Like a map of her creative process, the backs of her arched figures usher in her Tulip Domes and Huddle series.
Stemming from her focus on the arch of a bent figure, the conception of this show emerged from architectural research into domes as a series of lateral and vertical arches. The artist’s inquiry into domes focused on classic architectural drawings and included structures with an oculus, such as the Pantheon. An oculus—a circular opening at the apex of a dome—allows air, weather, and light into the space, casting a perfect, perhaps heavenly, circle of light, akin to that seen in Williams’s paintings A Dome in Spring and Huddled: Oculus 1. Williams notes: “Looking at the dome as an organized group of arches that construct a spacious, uninterrupted center still capable of bearing tremendous weight evoked for me the symbolic structure of a gathering.”
An arch is to a single bent back, as a dome is to a huddle of bowed, open-armed bodies. Finding inspiration from bodies gathered in unison in images of sports teams, family groupings, circles of women communing, people piling together in play, and spiritual gatherings, Williams’s domes are often constructed from a collection of figures leaning on one another in a circle. As the artist often considers the sonic qualities of the figures and spaces she paints, the dome affords an opportunity for sharing secrets and amplifying voices. Huddles grant the possibility for joyous, sacred, and private moments. Williams honors this privacy and creates mystery by depicting her huddles from an outsider’s perspective, leaving a viewer to imagine the plans, prayers, laughter, and supportive words that are being shared.
In this exhibition, the painted environment of what the artist calls “emotional landscapes” has become more ethereal and open, and the natural element most often repeated in this series is the tulip, both as a bud and blossoming. The artist found similarities in the structure of the tulip, in her words, “as a soft but sound inverted dome” where each petal is connected at the center and curls in, overlapping with adjacent petals. Like O’Keefe, Williams has abstracted the familiar, allowing the flower to fill the composition. Although Williams pursues beauty in this body of work, she states she “seeks to shed self-consciously political concerns about connecting imagery of women’s bodies to flowers, evoking notions of the delicate and the fertile.” Rather, she renders powerful, monolithic feminine bodies, capable of creating and holding space and worlds. When associating her figures with flowers, the artist finds aesthetic potential in the formal qualities of tulips for their colors, form, and organized symmetrical components.
Built on the foundation of Williams’s folded figures, the emergent connections presented in Huddle unite biotic and abiotic groupings. The dome, huddle, and tulip all consist of a structured collection around an open center. This free space created teems with possibilities, clearing the way for a stage, a secret place, an organizing place, or a spiritual hub. Speaking about this body of work, the artist notes: “These paintings are community holding each other up as women in prayer, as a family huddled together, as people sharing play.” Joining architecture, botany, figures, and geometry, Williams paints transcendental scenes of kinship.
Press Release by Kirsten Cave
Brittney Leeanne Williams in the studio, Los Angeles, CA, 2023. Photo: Yubo Dong, ofstudio
This exhibition follows the artist’s first solo show with the gallery Brittney Leeanne Williams: The Arch Is a Portal Is a Belly Is a Back (March 5-April 14, 2021), her inclusion in the gallery’s group shows The Natural World: Part II (March 9-April 13, 2022) and Quarters: Anne Buckwalter, Dustin Hodges, JJ Manford, Brittney Leeanne Williams (March 18-May 27, 2020), and our presentation at FOG Design+Art, San Francisco, CA (January 19-23, 2022). Alexander Berggruen represents the artist.
Brittney Leeanne Williams (b. 1990, Pasadena, CA) has been featured in exhibitions at Alexander Berggruen, New York, NY; The Hole, New York, NY; Nicodim, Los Angeles, CA; Monique Meloche, Chicago, IL; Mamoth, London, UK; Carl Kostyál, Milan, IT and Stockholm, SE; Para Site, Hong Kong, CN; Galerie Droste, Paris, FR; Savvy Contemporary, Berlin, GE; Newchild, Antwerp, BE; Collaborations, Copenhagen, DK; and at institutions such as MoAD, San Francisco, CA; and Telfair Museums, Savannah, GA; among others. Her work is included in various public collections, including the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; the Domus Collection, New York, NY and Beijing, CN; Fundacion Medianoche0, Granada, ES; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. She is a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant recipient. Williams’s artist residencies include Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; the Fores Project, UK; Arts + Public Life; and McColl Center.
On the occasion of this exhibition, Alexander Berggruen will publish an exhibition catalogue, featuring an essay by art historian Rebecca Zorach, PhD.
Brittney Leeanne Williams: Huddle will run at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from November 30, 2023-January 10, 2024. The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.