The Godfather of Art: A Retrospective of Robert Williams’
Journey Through the Eccentricities of Pop Culture and Art History
Prepare to embark on a wild and awe-inspiring adventure into the mind of Robert Williams, a rakish raconteur and denizen of both the art and comic worlds. As the founder of Lazinc and a prominent figure in the Zap Comix movement, Williams has etched his name in the annals of artistic brilliance. Now, the Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington, is set to host a retrospective of his life’s work on October 4th. And if that isn’t enough to pique your interest, Fantagraphics Books will accompany the exhibition with a rich and meaty 12″ by 15″ companion catalog. Brace yourself for an exploration of Williams’ wicked humor, wisdom, and exquisite allusions that are sure to captivate art enthusiasts and pop culture aficionados alike.
Unveiling the Enigmatic Genius
As we delve into the world of Williams, we encounter a figure who defies easy categorization. He is a maverick, driven by a deep respect for history, learning, and precision, yet his enigmatic nature never fails to confound. In his forthcoming book, containing over 300 of his paintings, Robert shares his multifaceted personality, flaws included, with humility and pride. The catalog begins with an introduction by Mat Gleason, a West Coast equivalent to the renowned Carlo McCormick, whose interpretations and opinions on art history are as fearless as they are insightful.
Williams’ journey began with his desire to give voice to artists, which ultimately led to the birth of Lazinc. This radical publication emerged from the outlaw world, fearlessly defending graffiti artists and ultimately resurrecting figurative art. Although figurative art reigned supreme in the empire built by Lazinc, Williams doesn’t discount the value and legitimacy of other artistic movements. He believes that conceptual art, Minimalism, and Abstract Expressionism deserve their rightful place alongside their figurative counterparts.
Art school can be a melting pot of varying artistic ambitions. Some individuals embark on this journey without the intention of becoming masters in their chosen field. They may spend a year exploring their artistic potential before pivoting to a different major. Williams acknowledges that not everyone possesses the dedication to spend eight to ten years honing their craft. Nevertheless, Lazinc has played a pivotal role in reestablishing figurative art as a prominent force within art schools.
A Quest for Artistic Salvation
Why does figurative art continue to resonate with audiences amidst the influx of obtuse, unpronounceable business names and the homogeneity of mass-produced devices? Williams firmly believes in creating art that goes beyond mere replication of photographs. His work, rooted in integrity and honest craftsmanship, stands as a testament to his rejection of shallow imitation. His Protestant ethics, instilled from childhood, galvanize him to take great pride in the authenticity of his artistic endeavors.
Of course, not all aspiring artists can expect an easy path. Williams reflects on the difficulties faced by many students who, driven by their passion for art, navigate the treacherous waters of creative expression. He cites the psychedelic poster movement of the 1960s as an example, where only a handful of artists managed to make a living from their craft. Mouse, one of the primary talents in this movement, had to rely on meager opportunities that trickled down from connections within