Lucy Williams: Pools

ExhibitionsBerggruen Gallery

Lucy Williams: Pools

May 18 — Jul 1, 2017

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Berggruen Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of works by Lucy Williams, on view May 18 – July 1, 2017. The gallery will host a reception for the artist on Thursday, May 18 from 5:00–8:00 p.m. Lucy Williams: Pools will showcase eight bas-relief collages of the mid-century modern pool in its various iterations, from private and residential to urban and municipal, as well as several examples from other bodies of Williams’s work.

Williams takes mid-century modern architecture as her subject matter, the clean lines and open spaces that dominated the built landscape of the 1920s to 1960s are immediately noticeable in each of her pieces. Working from photographs of real-life architectural spaces often taken at the time of construction, she creates collages of buildings designed by luminaries like Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Philip Johnson, as well as, if not more often, by lesser known and forgotten architects. In many cases, the real buildings that inspire Williams have been destroyed or drastically modified over the years, allowing Williams’s work to stand in as miniature substitutes for the lost originals.

Williams, however, “is not simply making illusory doubles of her living subjects.” She, in fact, adopts, explores and reinvents these buildings through her own unique form of three-dimensional collage, creating intricate and delicate bas-reliefs filled with their own unique character that lifts the architectural subject matter to another level of existence, and thus appreciation. Williams builds her works layer by layer from the interior of the building outward using a myriad of materials, such as paper, paint, board, Plexiglas, Jesmonite, filter gels, cork, balsa wood, wood veneers, piano wire, fabric and thread. These collages (if it is even fair to refer to them as such since they surpass what is commonly referred to as collage by leaps and bounds), are small in stature, rarely exceeding 35 inches in height and width and an inch and a half in depth. Every element is carefully cut and formed, placed and fitted together with infinite care and precision. These works are lovingly crafted, warm and inviting depictions of what is often mis-remembered as austere.

In her pool series, which encompasses depictions of both private and public pools, Williams takes her explorations of mid-century modern architecture to another level. In these works, arguably more than in any other body of her work, she plays with perception and our conceptions of space and reality by introducing the element of water, which allows for transparency, reflection and distortion of the built architectural forms. In Palm Springs, the reflection is mostly straight forward, mirroring the architecture of Craig Ellwood’s open plan residential design. The forms and colors of the structure and its surroundings, flipped upside down, muted and constrained to the rectangular shape of the pool deck, are imbedded in layers of Plexiglas. This depiction illustrates the beauty and potential of water to highlight and heighten the impact of the architecture. In other examples, such as Community Pool, the precision of the reflections is so convincing that viewers may question whether they are actually seeing reflections after all or an extension of the room itself, not to mention the viewers’ momentary suspension of disbelief that they are looking at a real reflection rather than a fabricated one. The longer you look into Williams’s pools, the more you are mesmerized and lulled into the work and made to be a participant in the scene. Laura McLean-Ferris describes this phenomenon, “The cool precision of the swimming pool architecture, reflected in the water, creates an unnerving sense of perspective, in which the eye wanders, as though entering the water, only to trip over on indicators of flatness rather than depth. We find ourselves caught in the push and pull of a seductive non-zone.” The magic of these pieces, aside from the beauty of their execution, exists in this non-zone, this nebulous space where reality and vision are uncertain and the uncertainty is hypnotic and pleasing. When realization hits, whether from seeing the thread of the lane lines or the glare off the Plexiglas, the viewer is even more stunned to remember that not only is this vision not reality, but that this non-zone is created from mere papers and plastics and wires.

Lucy Williams was born in Oxford, England in 1972. She received a BA at Glasgow School of Art in 1995 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Royal Academy Schools in 2003. Recent solo exhibitions include Festival, McKee Gallery, New York; and Pavilion, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London. Williams lives and works in London.

Lucy Williams: Pools and Michael Gregory: 1000 Words, May 18 – July 1, 2017. On view at 10 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. Images and preview are available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery by phone (415) 781-4629 or by email

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Lucy Williams . Winter Pool — 2017, Plexiglas, paper, engineered wood, piano wire, cotton thread, bronze colored card and acrylic paint on birch ply panel, 36 3/4 x 53 1/4 x 3 inches