Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness, a major survey of one of the most influential artists working in the photographic medium, confirms Christopher Williams’s (American, b. 1956) status as one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking artists of his generation, one whose interests in his generational elders is mirrored by the impact he is currently having on younger artists. In a career spanning over 30 years, Williams has explored the realms of photojournalism, picture archives, mass media, and commercial imaging, producing a concise oeuvre of photographs that carries an outsized impact on artists and cultural historians today. Deeply invested in the history of photography as a medium of art and intellectual inquiry, he is committed to furthering a critique of late capitalist society, in which images typically function as agents of consumer spectacle. Williams is currently professor of photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, a position previously held by Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall (fleetingly), and—for 20 illustrious years—Bernd Becher.
The Production Line of Happiness, which will travel on to the Whitechapel Gallery, London, is the first-ever survey of Williams's practice from its beginnings. The exhibition includes major projects made between 1979 and 1991, as well as works from his two subsequent series For Example: Die Welt ist schön and For Example: Dix-huit leçons sur la société industrielle (1994–present). Though the exhibition concentrates on photography, the work for which Williams is primarily celebrated, other salient aspects of his practice are represented, including subtle interventions with museum and display architecture. Williams will also organize a two-week film program for MoMA’s Carte Blanche screening series, July 23–29 and September 15–21, 2014. The exhibition is accompanied by a major, fully illustrated publication.
The exhibition is co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition at MoMA is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Lucy Gallun, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography.
Major support for the MoMA presentation of the exhibition is provided by MoMA's Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation and by The William Randolph Hearst Endowment Fund.
Additional funding is provided by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art and by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.
Image: Christopher Williams. Cutaway model Nikon EM. Shutter: Electronically governed Seiko metal blade shutter, vertical travel with speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second, with a manual speed of 1/90th. Meter: Center-weighted Silicon Photo Diode, ASA 25-1600, EV2-18 (with ASA film and 1.8 lens). Aperture Priority automatic exposure. Lens Mount: Nikon F mount, AI coupling (and later) only. Flash: Synchronization at 1/90 via hot shoe. Flash automation with Nikon SB-E or SB-10 flash units. Focusing: K type focusing screen, not user interchangeable, with 3mm diagonal split image rangefinder. Batteries: Two PX-76 or equivalent. Dimensions: 5.3" x 3.38" x 2.13" (135mm x 86mm x 54mm), 16.2 oz (460g). Photography by the Douglas M. Parker Studio, Glendale, California, September 9, 2007–September 13, 2007. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 17 15/16 x 21 5/8" (45.5 x 55 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Helen Kornblum in honor of Roxana Marcoci and Committee on Photography Fund. © 2013 Christopher Williams