Charles Edward Williams at Residency Gallery
Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 2/1/2018, midnight
Inglewood is buzzing in anticipation of the new stadium rising from the ruins of Hollywood Park along with the commercial and cultural amenities it will bring. All this hoopla overshadows that this is one of the fastest growing art communities in Los Angeles County.
One of these is the Residency Gallery, 310 E. Queen St.( just east of Inglewood City Hall), under the stewardship of Rick Garzon. In existence for two years, Garzon has been instrumental in bringing artists of color exposure in this overlooked (former) “City of Champions.”
On display is the artwork of South Carolina native Charles Edward Williams. In this era where computer-generated imagery saturates visual media, Williams stands out by utilizing traditional mediums like acrylic and oil based paints. His mother, and especially his grandmother nurtured his early artistic explorations as he used the rich heritage of the southern United States as an inspiration. He reinforced this regional legacy as he pursued a degree at the Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design, then on to grad school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, earning awards, grants, and showings in showings across the country.
In past exhibitions, he has displayed meticulously rendered oil landscapes of nature that underscore the special relationship southerners have with the land and the outdoors. In his latest outing at Residency Gallery, his work takes on a more politicized stance. Using photographs from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s as a launch point, he produces images informed by childhood stories passed along by his grandmother to create a new, personal narrative using advice she instilled in him: “Stay in the light, stay positive,” words he uses as the title of this exhibit.
Water is a hot button issue in Williams’ work, stemming from three separate incidents of near drowning in his youth. These personal experiences were augmented by his awareness of the 1919 drowning of 17-year old Eugene Williams in Chicago, which set off the “Red Summer” riots. This plays into a memorable sequence of self-portraits with the artist wearing green swimming goggles and red “floaties,” rifting on the fact that he cannot swim.
In this, water serves as a tool of duality, since it is necessary for life yet may be a vehicle for death. In the racially charged history of America, it is the origin of stereotypes that (all) Blacks cannot swim, and the whole legacy segregation of public places, especially swimming pools.
Charles Williams, Sun + Light, continues through March 10. A more comprehensive look at Williams’ work is available at http://www.cewpaintings.com/.