Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Peter William's painting Birdland, 2020 was aquired by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Birdland is one of 16 paintings in Peter Williams’s ongoing series “Black Exodus,” recently on view as part of the exhibition Peter Williams: Black Universe. That exhibition presents Williams’s Afrofuturist narrative following Black travelers on their journey to outer space in search of liberation. They engage with ancestral knowledge, spirits and cultural customs along their way, enabling them to imagine a future beyond the oppression they experience on Earth.
Birdland depicts the head and shoulders of one such space traveler, floating in four-leaf clovers and encircled by various species of endangered birds. Symbolic of an endangered people, these birds may also find peace and safety in the new world the traveler is seeking. Williams’s birds and the astronaut’s mosaic-encrusted helmet reference mosaics produced throughout the Byzantine era, many of which included birds as a decorative motif. The artist often incorporates historical allusions to situate his work in past, present and future contexts. An avid birdwatcher himself, Williams may be imagining himself as an astronaut on his own Afrofuturist journey.
Williams’s use of playfulness, humor and vibrant aesthetics as a subversive strategy to address racism and inequity in the United States is also seen in works by a number of artists in the collection. Alongside Wangechi Mutu and Robert Pruitt, Williams’s meditations on Afrofuturism, specifically how Afrofuturism necessitates reverence of and reintegration of ancestral practices to imagine future possibilities, offer a visual component for dialogue surrounding this avenue of Black liberation.