During the years I knew him best and worked with him most closely, he brought to brilliant fruition his pioneering experiments with shaped canvases and new geometric configurations in Dayglo paints, achievements which continue to rank among the significant triumphs of the art of the 1960s.
André Emmerich on Neil Williams
American artist Neil Williams may not be as well-known as his contemporaries but his work influenced a generation of artists. Born in Utah, Williams studied at the California School of Fine Arts before moving to New York. A pioneer of the shaped-canvas, he was one of several painters who broke free of the conventional square or rectangular canvas creating a body of work that varied in size and shape. Featuring bold colors and geometric forms, Williams work was shown widely in New York and included in several groundbreaking exhibitions of the 1960s including alongside the works of Frank Stella (whom he would later share a studio with in Long Island in the 1970s) in Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition, The Shaped Canvas (1964) and the highly influential and defining Systematic Painting (1966) curated by Lawrence Alloway also at the Guggenheim in New York. His work was also included in two of the American Art Annual exhibitions at The Whitney in 1967 and 1973. Williams eventually distanced himself from the New York scene preferring Sag Harbor and then later Brazil, where he was intending to move at the time of his death in 1988.
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