Forrest Williams

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Born: 1964, Burlington, NC
Lives and works in New York, NY


1994 New York Academy of Art, New York, NY
MFA, Painting
1986 Davidson College, Davidson, NC
BA, English
1985 Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland
Honors, English and Art History

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2010 "Crossways," Marx & Zavattero, San Francisco, CA
2007 "Porches," Heather Marx Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2005 "Passage," Heather Marx Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2002 "Interiors," Heather Marx Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2000 "Pilgrims," Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
1999 "Vigil," Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
"Go Figure," Wallspace, New York, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions:

2012 "New York Academy of Art Sixth Annual Summer Exhibition," Flowers, New York, NY
2011 “Sea Change: The 10th Anniversary Exhibition,” Marx & Zavattero, San Francisco, CA
“The Elegance of Refusal,” Gensler Architecture Design & Planning, San Francisco, CA (curated by Jessica Silverman)
2009 "Seldom Seen: Never and rarely seen work from the Foundation's permanent collection," Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, New York, NY
"Then and Now: An exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Center Show," The Lesbian & Gay Community Center, New York, NY
"Figuratively Speaking," Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY (curated by David Lyle)
2008 "Color Key," The Painting Center, New York, NY
2005 "Point of View," Cypress College Fine Arts Gallery, Cypress, CA
"Human Figure Humaine," Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal, Quebec
2004 "Art 2004," Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal, Quebec
2003 "Re-presenting Representation," Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY
2002 "Human Figure Humaine," Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal, Quebec
"Nouvelle Representation/New Representation," Galerie de Bellefeuille,
Montreal, Quebec
2001 "The Inaugural Exhibition," Heather Marx Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2000 "Delicate Tissue," M.Y. Art Prospects, New York, NY
1998 "Dialogues with Visual Transition," New York Academy, New York, NY
(curated by Philip Pearlstein)
"The 1998 National Competition," First Street Gallery, New York, NY
(curated by Edward Thorp)
1997 "Know New York," Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
1996 "Gallery on Second Group Show," Gallery on Second, New York, NY
(curated by Barbara Krulik)
1995 "The Kitchen Benefit Show," Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York, NY
1994 "Figurative Artists at The World Trade Center," 4 World Trade Center,
New York, NY

Selected Collections:
The Lesbian & Gay Community Center, New York, NY
Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, New York, NY

Selected Bibliography:

2010 O’Hern, John, “Forrest Williams: Oblique Relationships,” American Art Collector, November, p. 152-3
Eisenhart, Mary, "Don’t Miss: 'Forrest Williams: Crossways,'" San Francisco Chronicle
(96 Hours section), November 25, p. 17
“Top Pick: Crossways,” San Francisco Examiner, October 28, p. 34
Wood, Sura, “What’s up at the galleries this fall?” Bay Area Reporter, September 2
2009 O'Hern, John, "Formative Moments," American Art Collector, November, p. 50-51
2008 Foss, Paul, "On the Back Porch: An Interview with Forrest Williams," artUS, Issue 22, Spring, p. 50-53
2007 Young, Paul, "A brutal kind of beautiful," Los Angeles Times, February 1, p. F10-11
2005 Bing, Alison, "Forrest Williams: Thisclose" (catalogue essay)
"(Green) Alley" (reproduction), Bay Area Reporter ("Out & About" section), March 31, p. 37
2004 Harper's Magazine, January, p. 24 (reproduction)
2002 Sellards, Jason, "Still Life With Boyfriend. Painter Forrest Williams' Human Tableaux," Genre, May, No. 104, p. 30-31
Bing, Alison, "Psychological Profiles," Art ePick, April 11-17
"Nexus" (reproduction), Bay Area Reporter ("Out & About" section), March 28, p. 36
Berry, Colin, " 'The Inaugural Exhibition' at Heather Marx Gallery," Artweek, February, Volume 33, Issue 1, p. 25
2000 Kilby, Damian, "Classically Rendered Figures Dressed for the 'Hood,"
Portland, December
Ellertson, Karrin, "Four Artists," Portland Mercury, November
1999 Long, Andrew, "New Dimensions," Art & Antiques, February
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Press Release


OCTOBER 30 - DECEMBER 18, 2010
Opening reception for the artist: Saturday, November 6, 5:00-7:00 PM
This exhibition will be accompanied by a 30-page, full-color catalogue

For more information, contact Steve Zavattero
Phone: 415.627.9111/e-mail:

In his much anticipated fourth solo exhibition at Marx & Zavattero, New York painter Forrest Williams presents his latest paintings of contemplative male figures on panel and paper. On view October 30 - December 18, 2010, Crossways debuts a new series in which intense dramatic lighting, dense pattern, and oblique angles emphasize an unstable, somewhat disorienting space that his subjects inhabit both physically and spatially. Williams' paintings have always seamlessly fused his interest in figuration and abstraction, but in this new body of work Williams utilizes abstract patterns as a tool in which his subjects hang in a somewhat helter-skelter balance.

The paintings are simultaneously bright and emotional, with luscious textures that emphasize the months that Williams spends with his models, allowing both pattern and person to emerge out of thickly applied oil paint. In Field (Evening) a single male figure lies below a tree; his outstretched arm mimics the branches, lifeless and longing. Here, arrows function as both object and pattern, surrounding and pointing at the figure, suggesting a multiplicity of emotions as they team across the painterly surface. Pattern is always a key element in Williams' work. He adapts it with a specific personal symbolism in mind - arrows, trees, dragonflies, antique tiles, and fabrics inhabit the painting's surface, often in stark contrast with bold hues of blue, red, and orange - creating compositions that in some cases overwhelm the figure and allude to tangible emotional states.

For Williams, this series of works is "about taking the strict vertical/horizontal structure of the previous work and turning it on the diagonal." These diagonals combine with the pattern to create a "scaffolding" for the figures that are at once connected, subverted, and subjugated by these environments. In Twilight, two male figures sit closely together at a table covered with a delicate floral motif. One is upright, leaning and looking out onto the viewer, while the other lies on top of the table - quiet and motionless - depicting a moment of stillness that is both stunningly quixotic and listless. Williams' work has an almost indescribable power to unearth the tenuous moments where spoken and unspoken narratives are quietly lurking.

Williams has exhibited in many well-received exhibitions, including Color Key, the Painting Center, New York; Seldom Seen-Never and rarely seen work from the Foundation's permanent collection, The, Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, New York; Re-presenting Representation 6, The Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY; Figuratively Speaking, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York; Pilgrims, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR; and Human Figure Humaine, Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal, Quebec. His work has been reproduced in Harper's Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Bay Area Reporter, American Art Collector, and Genre, and reviewed in ArtUS, Art & Antiques, Portland Mercury, Artweek, and on His work is in the permanent collection of The Lesbian & Gay Community Center and The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation as well as several well-known private collections. Williams received his MFA from The New York Academy of Art.


My paintings depict individual men, but they are not portraits. The men inhabit a particular place, but it isn't "real." It's a psychological place -- an ambiguous, interior territory where the only literal element is the geometry that locks everything into position. A two-dimensional field of pattern is also a field to lie down in, and a garden can be a linear world where the flowers bloom on the clothing of the figures themselves. Arrows are nothing more than decorative compositional devices, or they imply actual violence. Things are and are not what they seem.

The paintings are staged scenarios, theatrical moments in which the settings are specific but not literal, and the men who inhabit them are actors, stand-ins for the iconic "man." The reality lies in the emotional core of this world -- intensely felt but highly contained. The patterns which lock these men down, even threaten to overwhelm them, also fundamentally connect them.

They're a group of men, but they're also self-portraits, and perhaps these are worlds of their own making -- with edges, and outsides, and terrains beyond. This is the region where desire and doubt, longing and reticence, intimacy and uncertainty coexist. It speaks of absence as much as presence.

  • For inquiries, please email Heather Marx Art Advisory at H[at]HMxAA[dot]com