Kent Williams is a name familiar to many comics readers. He and Jon J Muth were responsible for the art chores in “Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown” and he’s gone on to work on “Blood: A Tale”, “Tell Me Dark,” and most recently, a notable adaptation of Darren Aronofsky’s screenplay, “The Fountain.” One aspect of Williams’ career that may not be familiar to most comics fans is his recent appearance — or at least his work’s appearance– at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. a part of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Painting and Sculpture Exhibition.
The Pratt Institute graduate has had parallel career tracks to his work in comics. He’s presently a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Aan award-winning illustrator for magazines and books, Williams is also a painter. “All three worlds were very separate back then,” Williams told CBR News. “There’s so much more crossover now. I still love the graphic novel medium, and work in print in general. I love the printed page.”
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Since the release of “The Fountain,” Williams’ focus has been on painting. “I’m passionate about painting–contemporary and historical. And the act of painting. There is something about the visceral action of putting oil to canvas that’s very satisfying. Standing in front of a large canvas as opposed to being hunched over a drawing table.”
Allen Spiegel released a retrospective book of Williams’ work earlier this year. When asked why it was time to release “Amalgam: Paintings and Drawings, 1992-2007”, Williams laughed, “I’m not getting any younger. Really though, I’ve been wanting this book for more than a few years now. It just takes a lot to pull that much work together and get it all organized. I’ve not had a book of this nature really. And so much of this work had not been seen (in print), just small groupings here and there for the most part.”
The Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles represents Williams, and is presenting a new show running Saturday, September 8 through October 6. “In Animate: New Paintings” is an eclectic look at Williams’ most recent work. The title is a play on the word “inanimate,” Williams explained. “By separating the first part of the word. it changed the meaning from not alive to ‘in’ expressing movement or towards and ‘animate’ having life–thus: towards life or in life.
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“At some point in this work and some prior to this particular body of work, I realized I was including, with the human figure, inanimate figures as well — all representing living forms of some sort. Mexican dead dolls, manga-like characters, etc., and decided to run with it as a theme. I found it interesting having these human forms –animate forms represented in paintings, thus now inanimate– co-mingling with figures that are representations of living forms being presented in the painting as alive.”
One of the features of the In Animate show will be a number of portraits and self-portraits, a subject that seems almost contrary to Williams’ expressionistic style, which Williams admits that in a traditional sense is true. “I don’t really think my paintings work as portraits,” he said. “And certainly, for the most part, that’s not my goal. I’m less interested in capturing exact likenesses and more driven to explore some emotive aspect of the sitter, whether it’s a full representation of their personality, a splinter from the whole, or maybe even an attitude of mind I impose upon them — which I suppose could move the painting into more of a fictional account of the subject, which certainly is not portraiture.”
In Animate runs from September 8 through October 6 at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles.
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