Kavi Gupta
I Am Somebody, 1969
Acrylic on canvas
Signed and dated on front
48 x 48 x 2 in. (framed)
42 x 42 x 1.5 in.


The artist's studio, Chicago, IL, USA
Kavi Gupta gallery, Chicago, IL, USA

Gerald Williams (b. 1941, USA) is an American painter whose work explores culture, place and identity from a global perspective. Williams distills the visual language of time, place, culture and identity in order to express the essence of reality in an aesthetically contemplative way. Williams is one of the original five cofounders of AFRICOBRA, an artist collective formed on the south side of Chicago in 1967, which became the definitive visual expression of the Black Arts Movement.

Over time, Williams’ work has evolved into a polyrhythmic representation of life at the intersection of figuration and abstraction, defined by what he calls “mimesis at midpoint.”

After serving in the U.S. Air Force for four years, Williams earned his BA from Chicago Teachers College in 1969, and his MFA from Howard University in 1976. He served two years in the Peace Corps as Prevocational Director in the Jacaranda School for the Mentally Handicapped in Nairobi, Kenya, then taught for four years in the Washington, D.C. public schools. From 1984 through 2005, Williams served as the Director of Arts and Crafts Centers on United States Air Force bases in South Korea, Japan, Italy, the Azores and the United States.

Influenced both by AFRICOBRA and his travels, he has continued the practice of aesthetic distillation while opening himself up to new techniques, materials and processes. The quiet nights in Nairobi; the rich colors of African clothing and architecture; the dynamic rhythms of life in the country and the city: all of these things affect his aesthetic approach, and inform the polyrhythmic aesthetic he maintains today.

Williams’ work is included in several major collections, including that of the Smart Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. A major profile of Williams appeared in Hyperallergic in 2018, based on an oral history included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

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