Amanda Williams is both an architect and an artist whose work features photographs, works on paper, and installations as she investigates color and its political and social consequences for African Americans. Her work focuses on color and how it socially impacts an urban environment.
Williams grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She studied architecture at Cornell and received her B.A. in 1997 working as an architect on the West Coast for six years. She also studied painting and was making art on the side before returning to Chicago to pursue art full-time . She reached a convergence of the two professions and stated, “The work has evolved to a point where I am able to marry my architect self and artistic self.”
She loves colors and color theory and uses color to form compositions. She learned from Josef Albers that color is subjective and is relational. This knowledge helped her see that the colors in her neighborhood were affected by other colors. Her own Color Theory allowed her apply custom-mixed colors to her old Chicago neighborhood.
Between 2014 and 2016 Williams repainted eight empty houses on the South Side of Chicago that were slated to be demolished. For this project, entitled “Color(ed) Theory,” she used certain colors that were historically marketed to Black People, colors such as Crown Royal Purple, Ultra Sheen Blue, Oil Moisturizer Pink, Currency Exchange Yellow, and Chicken Shack Red. She transferred a bleak urban landscape into something rich and brilliant, and viewers had an immediate positive response to the colors. These colors made people happy. Her work also drew attention as to why these houses were slated to be torn down. Painting these houses in brilliant colors sparked dialogued and changed people’s perception about what the neighborhood could become.
In 2016, Williams took some 200 salvaged bricks from Chicago’s South Side, stacked them up in layers of 32 bricks each and covered them with imitation gold leaf for her “It’s a Goldmine/Is the Gold Mine?”
Her “Amanda Williams: Embodied Sensations” is an immersive artwork that considers the systemic injustices of public spaces. It is on view from April through June 20, 2021 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Williams is a 2018 United States Artists Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors grantee, and a member of the multidisciplinary Museum Design team for the Obama Presidential Center. She has previously served as a visiting assistant professor of architecture at Cornell University and Washington University in St. Louis.
Williams had a solo show, “Chicago Works: Amanda Williams,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and collaborated on a project for the United States Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. She participated in an exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art where she addressed discriminatory lending practices against minorities trying to buy homes.
Her work is in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.