Review of Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination at the Bellevue Arts Museum.
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Nour Gajial and edited by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras.
Robert Williams has created it all! From a multi-colored monster jumping out of a canvas to a monkey serving pie from a gravestone, the The Father of Exponential Imagination is sure to bring audiences on a thrilling and somewhat unpredictable journey as the viewers unlock the messages within his paintings.
Williams is an unconventional artist. He grew up in an unstable household and lived through a rocky childhood wrought with familial issues. He was very curious about technology, especially cars, and is well known for his work with the Hot Rod, a custom car shop in California. Robert attended art school and worked as a comic designer, but his work did not satisfy him. He couldn’t fully express himself through the common art style of the time, so he created his own.
The gallery currently displayed at the Bellevue Arts Museum is a traveling collection of his personal works. When I first scanned his gallery, I was overwhelmed by the variety of figures, styles, colors, and sizes. Many of his paintings seemed childish and youthful given the bursts of bright colors layered across the canvas. However, his technical ability to apply intricate details in small areas is astounding. Throughout the exhibit, there is a visible connection to his work in comic design. Typically the pieces are in black and white, or have minimal color and rough line quality. In contrast to these small basic sketches, his large oil paintings have intense focus on detail and shading, creating a more realistic image.
Unlike conventional pieces of art, Williams’ style can be described as lowbrow art—art that is not “refined” or “cultured.” However, he takes pride in the fact that his work is unrefined, and is rather a pure representation of what he is feeling. Many of his paintings explore the relationship between men and women, the role of imaginary creatures in a common setting, and the idea of losing innocence. One may observe a repeated visual of cars (related to his passion for technology), and monsters (related to his motif of imagination). His use of expression, color, highlights, and line quality emphasizes the strong emotions of the characters in his paintings. In many pieces he uses contrasting pigment to bring attention to characters or objects within the painting. This compliments a common trait of Williams’ art: his combination of random objects in one centralized place on the canvas. At first, a creature or object may seem confusing and complicated, but Williams’ goal is for the audience to come up with their own interpretation. These complex characters relate to Williams’ unorthodox experience as an artist, further accentuating the connection between the artist and the theming of the piece.
The title of Williams’ exhibit, The Father of Exponential Imagination and his elaborate style communicates the message that art does not need to be straight forward. While it may be easier to comprehend the meaning of one object alone, Williams does the opposite and connects multiple contrasting objects to create a more thought provoking experience for the viewer. This method offers the audience an outlet to create their own story through their interpretation of his piece. Williams’ specific style not only serves as an outlet to communicate his thoughts and experiences, but also connects the viewers to the painting as they curate their own story.
Williams’ gallery is a raw example of success without conforming to societal norms. His work has taught us that art doesn't have to be interpreted in one specific way. Williams’ journey as an artist exemplifies pursuing an unconventional route to expressing oneself. If you are willing to explore a unique art style, or want to immerse yourself into an imaginary tale where you create the story, then this gallery is well worth your time!