Bernard Williams is a native of Chicago, Illinois (b. 1964). He holds a BFA Degree from the University of Ill. at Champaign-Urbana, and a Master of Fine Arts Degree (1990) from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, 1987. Williams taught art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1991-2003 and 2010.
Trained in painting and drawing, Williams has reshaped himself into a prolific painter/sculptor and installation artist. He has crafted striking and at time enormous sculptures and objects, often working with basic plywood, a jig-saw, and power tools. The artist cuts graphic symbols from plywood, layering and attaching these painted forms to reference American history, architecture, and the sciences.
In 2003 the artist was selected as a resident artist at the prestigious Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He lived there for seven months (October 2003 – May 2004) pursuing independent projects. One of the 2004 projects lead to the 2005 exhibition of a revealing group of wood sculptures which investigated the ornamental formats of the American, and Chicago-based, architect Louis Sullivan.
Bernard Williams has received strong recognition as a painter and sculptor both regionally and nationally. In 2003, 2007, and 2012 Williams was awarded project grants from the Illinois Arts Council. In 2001 the Bernard was among 20 artists from Chicago and San Francisco to receive significant awards from the Artadia Foundation to continue studio work. He has been featured at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, MS, and the African-American Museum in Dallas, TX. Selected group exhibitions include REMIX at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New York (2008) and The Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2009). Williams was included in a group show at Exit Art in New York in 2010.
A long time member of the Chicago Public Art Group, a premiere community-based arts organization, Williams has produced painted outdoor and indoor murals (usually with youth participation) in many neighborhoods and schools around Chicago and abroad. Mural commissions have been sponsored by a range of organizations and corporations including AT&T, GATX Corp., Kraft Foods, the Snite Museum of Art at the Univ. of Notre Dame, Indiana, Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Chicago Public Schools, and the Jackson Public School District, Jackson, MS.
He maintained a studio in Brooklyn from 2007-2009. 2009 brought his first solo exhibition at Slate Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. In May 2009, Williams completed a large temporary outdoor sculpture in Long Island City at the venerable Socrates Sculpture Park. A solo exhibition followed in September 2010 at Thomas McCormick gallery in Chicago, and in 2011 the artist completed a 6-week residency in New Orleans, LA., coordinated by Tulane University. In that same year, a large collection (150 pieces) of wood cut-out symbols, titled Buffalo Chart, was acquired by the Mott-Walsh collection Flint, MI. The artist has paintings in permanent collections at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis and the Snite Museum on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Recently, Bernard has launched a series of hand-built, life-sized automobiles using plywood. These energetic stationary auto sculptures are receptacles for boyhood wonder and desire. The car sculptures reference history and industry, commenting on society, culture and design. Maintaining interests from previous work, the new car sculptures are surprising developments suggesting the artists constant engagement with new ideas and possibilities in sculptural form.
In 2013 the artist will mount a large temporary outdoor sculpture at the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO.