"Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness"

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Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968, Eastman Kodak Company, 1968 / (Meiko laughing) / Vancouver, B.C. / April 6, 2005, 2005

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Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Sri Lanka, 1989 / Blaschka Model 694, 1903 / Genus no. 1318 / Family, Musaceae / Musa rosacea Jacq. / (from Angola to Vietnam*), 1989

3/23
Photograph: Lorrin and Deane Wong Family Trust; Los Angeles; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Bouquet for Bas Jan Ader and Christopher D’Arcangelo, 1991

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Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; New York; courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Bergische Bauernscheune, Junkersholz / Leichlingen, September 29th, 2009, 2010

5/23
Photograph: Art Institute of Chicago; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Punta Hicacos, Varadero, Cuba / February 14, 2000, 2000

6/23
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Main Staircase for the Arts Club Chicago, 1948–51 / Steel, travertine marble / 359.4 × 458.8 × 609.3 cm / (141 1/2 × 180 5/8 × 239 7/8″) / Arts Club commission 1948–1951 / Ludwig Mies van der Rohe / 109 East Ontario Street, / Chicago

7/23
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Model: 1964 Renault Dauphine-Four, R-1095 / Body Type & Seating: 4-dr-sedan–4 to 5 persons / Engine Type: 14/52 Weight: 1397 lbs. Price: $1,495.00 USD (original) / ENGINE DATA: / Base Four: inline, overhead-valve four-cylinder / Cast

8/23
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Fachhochschule Aachen / Fachbereich Gestaltung / Studiengang: Visuelle Kommunikation / Fotolabor für Studenten / Boxgraben 100, Aachen / November 8, 2010, 2010

9/23
Photograph: Kravis Collection. Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Erratum / AGFA Color (oversaturated) / Camera: Robertson Process Model 31 580 Serial #F97-116 / Lens: Apo Nikkor 455 mm stopped down to f90 / Lighting: 16,000 Watts Tungsten 3200 degrees Kelvin / Film: Kodak Plus-X Pan ASA 125 / Koda

10/23
Photograph: Collection of Thomas Struth; Berlin; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968, Eastman Kodak Company, 1968 / (Corn) / Photography by the Douglas M. Parker Studio, Glendale, California / April 17, 2003, 2003

11/23
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; New York; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Model #105M – R59C / Keystone Shower Door / 57.4 × 59˝ / Chrome/Raindrop / SKU #109149 / #96235. 970 – 084 – 000 / (Meiko) / Vancouver, B.C / April 6, 2005 (No. 1). 2005

12/23
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago; courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Mustafa Kinte (Gambia) / Camera: Makina 67 506347 / Plaubel Feinmechanik und Optik GmbH / Borsigallee 37 / 60388 Frankfurt am Main, Germany / Shirt: Van Laack Shirt Kent 64 / 41061 Mönchengladbach, Germany / Dirk Schaper Studio, Berl

13/23
Phootgraph: The Museum of Modern Art; New York; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, ecTake Luxus Strandkorb grau/weiß / Model no.: 400636 / Material: wood/plastic / Dimensions (height/width/depth): 154 cm × 116 cm × 77 cm / Weight: 49 kg / Manufactured by Ningbo Jin Mao Import & Export Co., Ltd, / Ningbo, Zhejiang,

14/23
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Clockwise from Manufacturer Name (Outer Ring) / Michelin zX / Treadwear 200 / Traction A / Temperature B / Clockwise from Tire Size (Inner Ring) / 135 SR 15 / 723 E2 0177523 / Tubeless / Radial X / Made In France / TN 2148 20-2044 /

15/23
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Pacific Sea Nettle / Chrysaora Melanaster / Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific / 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, California / July 9, 2008, 2009

16/23
Photograph: Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, RITTERSPORT / Von oben nach unten/from top to bottom / 100g Tafeln/100 g Bars / Offizieller Produktname/Official Product Name/Ean Code Bar/ / UPC Code for Case/Bars per Case / Voll Nuss/ Whole Hazelnuts/4000417019004/050255013005/10

17/23
Photograph: Collection of Constance R. Caplan; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Red) / Dirk Schaper Studio, Berlin / April 30, 2009. 2009.

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Photograph: Katherine and Keith L. Sachs; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green/East Berlin) / Studio Thomas Borho, Oberkasseler Str. 39, Düsseldorf, Germany / July 7, 2012, 2012.

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Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Weimar Lux CDS, VEB Feingerätewerk Weimar / Price 86.50 Mark GDR / Filmempfindlichkeitsbereich 9 bis 45 DIN und 6 bis 25000 ASA / Blendenskala 0,5 bis 45, Zeitskala 1/4000 Sekunde bis 8 Stunden, ca. 1980 / Models: Ellena Borho and Ch

20/23
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Loading the film (ORWO NP15 135-36 ASA 25, Manufactured by VEB Filmfabrik Wolfen, Wolfen, German Democratic Republic) / Exakta Varex IIa / 35 mm film SLR camera / Manufactured by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co, Dresden, German De

21/23
Photograph: Private Collection; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Cutaway model Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZM / Focal length: 15mm. Aperture range: 2.8 – 22. No. of elements/groups: 11/9 / Focusing range: 0.3 m–infinity. Image ratio at close range: 1:18 / Coverage at close range: 43 cm × 65 cm. Angul

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Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams, Fig. 4: Changing the shutter speed / Exakta Varex IIa / 35 mm film SLR camera / Manufactured by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co, Dresden, German Democratic Republic / Body serial no. 979625 (Production period: 1960–1963) / Carl Ze

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Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner; New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain; Cologne; © 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

A MoMA retrospective is usually an indicator of an artist about to become a household name, but I suspect that the work of Christopher Williams is too difficult for that to happen. His show was sparsely attended when I was there, while crowds thronged through a concurrent Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit. An unfair comparison, sure, but given that MoMA is in the business of promoting art as a spectacle for tourists, I couldn’t help making it.

A contemporary of the Pictures Generation, Williams initially relied on appropriation to create his photographs, but only a couple of replicas of magazine covers suggest as much. The rest of his early career is taken up by deeply obscure black-and-white photos of subjects ranging from still lifes of vegetables to an ominous group of men, including military officers, gathered in front of a suburban house.

Williams, a Los Angeles native, grew up on movie sets, thanks to his father, who worked in Hollywood. This experience informed his best-known work, a series of photos that he directed rather than took. He employed a commercial photographer as a cinematographer, with the result resembling midcentury ads. Austerely elegant, they provide deliberate miscues about how such images are manufactured—if you know how to decode them. A color register next to a woman wrapped in a towel doesn’t match the hues in the picture; a black man holding a camera looks away from the viewer in one of a pair of black-and-white shots. His white shirt is also blown out, while his features merge into a dark backdrop. However interesting, in the end, these images are too close to what they pretend to be.—Howard Halle

Event phone: 212-708-9400
Event website: http://moma.org
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