MoMA to Present Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness, 8/2-11/2

The Museum of Modern Art announces Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness, the first retrospective devoted to Christopher Williams (American, b. 1956), spanning the 35-year career of one of the most influential cinephilic artists working in photography. Organized by MoMA in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition brings together about 100 works that engage the conventions of photojournalism, picture archives, and commercial imagery, presented within their sociopolitical contexts. Williams has pursued an artistic direction that examines the theoretical and political history of photography within the larger context of image production. On view from August 2 through November 2, 2014, in the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery, Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness is organized at MoMA by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Lucy Gallun, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography. The exhibition is on view at the AIC through May 18; after its presentation at MoMA, the exhibition travels to Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Williams studied at the California Institute of the Arts from the mid to late 1970s under the first wave of West Coast Conceptual artists, including Michael Asher, John Baldessari, and Douglas Huebler, eventually becoming one of his generation's leading Conceptualists and art professors-he is currently professor of photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Deeply invested in the histories of photography and film, Williams has produced a concise oeuvre that furthers a critique of late capitalist society in which images typically function as agents of spectacle. For the title of this exhibition, Williams has taken a line from a documentary by French director Jean-Luc Godard in which an amateur filmmaker compares his daily job as a factory worker with his hobby of editing his films of the Swiss countryside as "the production line of happiness." In Williams's hands the phrase appears to refer to the function of much photography in postwar consumer society, in which it not only pictures but also produces so many experiences and objects to be consumed.

Image Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). Fig. 2: 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 Democratic Republic / Body serial no. 979625 (Production period: 1960-1963) / Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar / 50mm f/2.8 lens / Manufactured by VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, Jena, / German Democratic Republic / Serial no. 8034351 (Production period: 1967-1970) / Model: Christoph Boland / Studio Thomas Borho, Oberkasseler Str. 39, Düsseldorf, Germany / June 25, 2012. 2012. Pigmented inkjet print. Paper: 20 x 24" (50.8 x 61 cm), framed: 33 3/8 x 37 3/8" (84.7 x 94.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of David Dechman and Michel Mercure in honor of Joel Wachs. Courtesy of the artist; David Zwirner, New York/London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne © Christopher Williams




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by Barry Kostrinsky