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Ralph Ellison

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A LOOK AT MICHAEL KELLY WILLIAMS' IMAGES


Special by THE NEW TIMES HOLLER!
From the Art Swirl Desk by
© Amir Bey, 2009
DECEMBER 21, 2009


When I met Michael Kelly Williams in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1977, when he used the word Images it felt significant. One word, yet his images had many manifestations: in printmaking, collage, photography, carved and mixed media sculpture. It got MORE interesting when he combined them, like with his photography, collage and woodcuts, whose elements I later saw in some of his viscosity prints.

MICHAEL KELLY WILLIAMS


Is he a sculptor, printmaker, photographer? How about a multi-faceted imagist? Apis lens photo by Amir Bey, 2009

THE EL, Monoprint, Michael Kelly Williams


Much of Michael's work is a fusion of mythology, history, floating dream elements and urbanica.The EL was created in 1991 at the Berkshire School of Contemporary Art on a large hand made hydraulic press; it is about three and a half feet by five feet. It is a lyrical, improvisational piece that expresses his ideas about the rhythm and movements of train tracks and the sounds of whistles.



           

WOMAN'S FACE, Kelly Williams, Michael's father, 1951.
                     

BEAUBIEN SIDE, Michael Kelly Williams, woodcut, 1971; Michael describes this as a "Blues Piece".



Michael was born into an artistic environment. His father, Kelly Williams was a painter who met Michael's mother in Paris during the 1940s, where Michael was later born. When he was about five, the family moved to Detroit, where his father was active in the arts and published an arts newsletter, Art and Artist. In France, Kelly was a studying under the G.I. bill and a student of the painter Fernand Leger. In Detroit he later had a community based art school and gallery called the Kelly Williams Studio.

BEAUBIEN SIDE's title is taken from a street in Detroit where Michael had his first apartment. It is influenced by the linear style of the Japanese Ukioy-e, while also having the emotional expression of the the German expressionists.

Self Information, 1975-77.

Slow shutter speeds and double exposures like this photo of Betty Carter became autoinspirational for his later work. Much of those photos were of musicians such as The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, and a Detroit band The Griot Galaxy.


After Michigan

           

Afternoon of a Georgia Fawn, woodcut, 1985. Georgia Fawn puts together all of the elements that Michael had been working on, from woodcuts to collage. It was inspired by Anita Allen, who was his wife then. The title comes from saxophonist and artist Marion Brown's music. It was intended to be an album cover, but was used as a book cover by Brown instead.
                     

For MUNAKATA, woodcut, 1983. The woodcuts of the Japanese artist Shiko Munkata (September 5, 1903 Ė September 13, 1975), inspired Michael in this print.


           

CHICAGO INCENSE MERCHANT (detail), 1983. This is the first work he used collage as the basis for a woodcut.
                     

LAST SET BEFORE NOON, 1979; SET incorporates lithographic colors. This is the first woodcut that was done after moving to New York during the time that he listened to much music at The Tin Palace, at the end of the Loft Period of Jazz in New York.


LATE 70S AND MID 80S NEW YORK
AND MANY RESIDENCIES


           

CHARM 1, 1986-87, during Michael's Studio Museum in Harlem residency. This is the beginning of Michael's work with found objects, and his work having a folk art sensibility.
                     

CHI, also during the residency. Further exploration with found objects, exhibiting his interest in African and folk art.


THE ANNUNCIATION, monoprint

This is a continuation of a print series that spanned the years 1984-88. This shows the monoprint technique Michael came up with in 1984, where he used thin pieces of plastic and metal to print with.



           

SANCTUARY, oil paint on top of treated paper, which involved using plastic scrapers. This was during his residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1988
                     

GANAWA, 1988, during Skowhegan. The Ganawa live in Morocco. This is about their music, which features large castanets. This piece "moves" like a large Bill Traylor figure.


TWO PAINTINGS
           

FOR ART BLAKEY, oil on canvas, 1991. In tribute to Art Blakey, representing his drum set and silhouette on an energized background.
                     

TRIO, oil on linen, 1989. Horn, piano and drum players, demonstrating his interest in ancient Egyptian art and the art of Moroccan modern art, which is very abstract.


SCULPTURES
           

FELA, Mixed Media, 1996. This tribute to the Nigerian musician Fela continued Michael's work with found objects.
                     

EPISTROPHY, Mixed Media, 1996. This sculpture is devoted to Thelonius Monk's tune of the same name.


           

TRIBUTE, 1995, showing folk art influences.
                     

AMULET OF LIGHT, 1995. This construction from two oversize light protectors is related to quilts, Yoruba beads, and polyrhythmic music.


COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS

Ann Arbor, 1977


Michael and Amir Bey at their 1977 exhibit at Trotter House in Ann Arbor, "MOYO ROHO: Documents of Late 20th Century Urban Africans Living in North America"

Michael has been involved in collaborations, including with musician Marion Brown, Gerri Allen, who he disigned two album covers for, the film Daughters of the Dust, with dancer Maria Mitchell among other projects.



Michael with friend and collaborator, Robin Holder, signing monoprints they did together during 1984 at The Printmaking Workshop, December 1, 2009.
To see the February 24, 2009 NEW TIMES HOLLER! interview with Robin Holder please click here.

ALBUM COVER

Michael did two album covers for Geri Allen,
the above cover was for The mary Lou Williams Collective ZODIAC SUITE: REVISITED

PHOTO SHOP VENTURES
Originally from water colors, Michael tweaked and played with these images,
with the intention of making prints from them.
           

ASCENSION, 2002.
                     

HEALTH, 2002
These days Michael is going back to the plates and blocks that he as created and printing editions of them.
In many cases he doesn't have full editions of those, only proofs.

For a listing of Michaelís bibliography, monographs and solo exhibitions please visit the
African American Visual Artists Database.

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