Jenkins Johnson presents two New York artists from the same generation, Lisa Corinne Davis and Philemona Williamson. Davis’ practice is rooted in abstraction, while Williamson is a narrative figurative painter. Through seemingly different practices, these women explore malleable definitions of race, family and culture, revealing subjective perspectives on the fragility of the parameters that shape our world. Davis’ abstractions metaphorically question these limitations through the deconstruction of logical form, while Williamson uses figurative and personal narratives to expose the subjective nature of the self. These artists inspire us to interrogate our own understandings with deeply personal practices, that reflect their own sensibilities and experiences. Both artists are recipients of the prestigious Pollack-Krasner grant and established professors.
Lisa Corinne Davis (b. 1958, Baltimore, MD) uses abstraction to explore the interiority of concepts such as race, culture, and history, challenging classification and contingency. Her art depends on the idea that nothing is concrete, but rather a “subjective construct of culture, biases, assumptions, and personal predispositions.” Davis’ style is almost cartoonish and then cartographic, abstractly rendering a space of oddly familiar yet essentially ephemeral visuals. Her map-like works turn fantastical and strange, speaking to the fluidity of culture and one’s location within it as an individual. Recently, Davis has worked more with the materiality of paint, allowing the process of working with paint to flow more organically.
The paintings of Lisa Corinne Davis have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and Europe. Her work is in institutions including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a 2021 Arts and Letters Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2020 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, The Louis Comfort Tiffany grant, a National Endowment for the Arts' Visual Artist Fellowship, and three New York Foundation for the Arts, Visual Arts Fellowships. Davis' work has been reviewed by periodicals such as The New York Times, Art in America, ArtNews and Hyperallergic. She has taught art for the past twenty-five years at institutions including: Parsons School of Design, Cooper Union School of Art, and Yale University. Davis is currently a Professor of Art, and Head of Painting at Hunter College in New York. Davis lives and works in Brooklyn and Hudson, New York.
Philemona Williamson (b.1951, New York, NY) is acclaimed for narrative paintings in which she populates with children and adolescents, beautifully encapsulating themes of time and memory, revealing fleeting moments that are at once unknown but relatable. Her paintings inspire infinite narratives as her subjects intertwine with our own experiences.
Williamson highlights the vulnerability and influence of cultural constructs, including race, heritage and family. Exploring the tenuous bridge between adolescence and adulthood, the artist encapsulates the intersection of innocence and experience at its most piercing and poignant moment. The lush color palette and dreamlike positioning of the figures ensures that their vulnerability - of age, of race, of sexual identity - is seen as strength and not as weakness.
Williamson recently had a mid-career retrospective at the Montclair Art Museum, NJ and collaborated with author Marilyn Nelson to create a series of paintings for the children’s book “Lubaya’s Quiet Roar” (Penguin Random House). She is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Pollock-Krasner, National Endowment for the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts. Williamson also served on the advisory board of the Getty Center for Education. She has shown in institutions including The Queens Museum of Art, The Bass, Miami, and Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. Williamson’s work is in museums including the Montclair Art Museum, NJ, Kalamazoo Institutes of Arts, MI, Mint Museum, NC, Smith College Museum of Art, MA, Hampton University Museum, VA and Sheldon Art Museum, NE. Her public works include murals for the MTA Arts in Transit Program. Art & Object named her “10 Contemporary Black Artists You Should Know More About”. She currently teaches painting at Pratt Institute and Hunter College in New York.