Sep 15, 2011

PROFILE | Kent Williams

Kent Williams, Studio Arrangement in Blue and Rose, oil on canvas, 2010
Kent Williams is a contemporary figurative painter from Los Angeles, California. William’s work is both obscure and charming. Williams uses mixture of realism, neo-expressionism and abstraction in his paintings. His work is recognized by gestural forms combined with interesting detail in the background, shown by his energetic brushwork. His figures in his paintings are often subjective and intense, multi- figured or single figured. Williams’s figures consist of models, friends and himself. According to Williams website:

“Williams’ work has been the subject of a number of solo exhibitions, including shows in New York City, Berlin, Germany, Santa Fe, NM, San Francisco, CA, Sundance, UT, The Duke Museum of Art, Durham, NC, and in Los Angeles, CA, where he is represented by Merry Karnowsky Gallery.

His work is collected in the United States and abroad, and can be found in the privet collections of, according to his website: “Robin Williams, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Darren Aronofsky, Alex O’Loughlin, and Meg White.”

In Studio Arrangement in Blue and Rose, Williams depicts the man and woman in a realism fashion like many of Gustave Courbet’s figures in his paintings.  The figures are nude and in Williams painting the figures are in similar yet different positions compared to the figures in Gustave Courbet’s work. Besides Williams figures having a historical reference to realism, Williams does something completely different with the backgrounds in each of his paintings.  He places the figures in a setting that looks like it could be an art studio because of the paint cans and extension cords. The semi abstract background in Kent Williams painting helps push forward and makes us focus more on what the figures are doing.  In the cases of Studio Arrangement in Blue and Rose it looks as if the two figures were working in a studio and found themselves sexually attracted for each other and again Williams puts an emphasis on the figures in the foreground.  Another historical aspect noticed about Kent Williams painting is how the characters are depicted.  The women in the paintings are as I like to call it “fatty” looking and unhappy. They do not have much muscle mass or tone, they look blubbery. An example of these women can be found in the work of Édouard Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass.

Kent Williams, 1962, oil on linen, 2010

Among all of Williams’s paintings you can see that Williams has some kind of Asian influence you can see it in Studio Arrangement in Blue and Rose but more importantly you can see the influence in 1962. In Asian art they are heavily influenced Buddha and zodiac animals like rats, rabbits, tigers, dragons, snakes, horses, sheep, monkeys and dogs. In 1962 you can see the Asian influences of the Asian figures, a horse in the top left corner and the tiger over the man.  The tiger is a symbol of protection.  In 1962 the way Williams put the tiger over the man it looks like the tiger is protecting the man from some other outside predator that is about to attack the man.  From the different genres and cultures Williams uses in his art allows Kent Williams to have a style of his own.

-Hannah Klaus


  1. I really admire Asian style/forms of art. I particularly enjoy the symbolism from the tiger enclosing the man in 1962, even more so with the symbolism of the tiger being strength, violence, and power; almost as if it's trying to make a relation to males within that culture and society.

  2. I totally have to agree with you! I love Asian art and anything that has a Asian influence to it. I did not see the relation of the tiger to the male until you pointed that out and I have to agree with you. Thanks for the comment and opening my eyes to more about the painting.

    -Hannah Klaus