White Columns

White Room Terry Williams – Soft Sculpture

Curated by Ricky Swallow and organized in collaboration with Arts Project Australia

White Columns is proud to present the first solo exhibition outside of Australia by the Melbourne-based artist Terry Williams. The exhibition has been curated for White Columns by the Los Angeles-based artist Ricky Swallow and comprises a group of seven recent ‘soft sculptures’ accompanied by three earlier, smaller works. About Williams’ practice Swallow has stated:
“Terry Williams works with rapid intention to fix forms into stitched and stuffed fabric sculpture.
They are things built with an acceptance of partial collapse- distortion and malleability; a soft slumping character resides in every building, mask, machine and creature that William’s translates, as though sculpture were a type of costume or caricature of lived and useful things.
Williams never creates patterns or prepatory drawings for his pieces. Instead, the objects are literally acted out through making, each sculpture beginning with direct drawing onto the fabric to create panels which are cut out and hand sewn together, filled with polyester batting and subsequently layered and assembled.
The earliest soft sculptures (2010)- basically shaped painted canvas cushions have developed into elaborately constructed pieces layered with elements utilizing an array of textiles from comic graphics to gridded and decorative patterning. Painted lines of description have given way to stitched wool lines which function both to join panels and render detail.
There’s a participatory nature in much of the work; the masks can be worn, and elements of certain sculptures utilize buttoning and opening to allow one to wear or access different sections of the sculptures. ‘Church’ 2013 one of William’s most ambitious pieces represents both the interior and exterior of its subject. The barreled roof hinges open to reveal rows of pews, an altar and padded doors (which also open and close). Similarly the series of masks, diving helmets, and boots propose clear paths of entry, disguise and experience.
Any ritual the objects may suggest beyond the ritual of their actual making seems secondary for Williams. For although he tracks the storage, editing and display of his objects as they circulate the building at Arts Project (where he has worked for 20 years) his real preoccupation is his process.
When I first saw William’s work it was in the form of small ceramic sculptures. These pieces reproduced with economical gesture, specific buildings, vehicles and furniture with an anthropomorphic quality. A group of these reside on our mantle; the wheels of a train resembling crude teeth, a cathedral with a Loch Ness monster profile…and an ambiguous white form somewhere between a bed and a typewriter (it’s embossed gridded surface rendering quilt or keys?).
With the soft sculptures this same unique transaction occurs between a recognizable starting point and an ambiguous final form. The specific construction and contrast of color-blocked shapes attached to broader surfaces creates compositional abstract reliefs fortuitously modern in character. The works ‘espresso machine’, 2012 and ‘jet pack’, 2013 appear almost anatomical, their working parts clustered like arteries providing a formal circulation to the physical mass of the sculpture.
Working with a process that is essentially an elaborate amplification (or bastardization) of a craft assignment, Williams has produced increasingly stranger and more compelling sculptures. The essence of things is exaggerated, the messy dangling elements of every form is prioritized above figural accuracy- a unique approach to structure is felt - reason is hushed.”
Ricky Swallow  - Los Angeles, Feb 2015
Terry Williams was born in 1952 and has worked in the Arts Project Australia studios in Melbourne since 1994. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia, most recently participating in Imagining: New Perspectives on Outsider Art, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne University.  ‘Soft Sculptures’ at White Columns is William’s first international exhibition.
For more information contact: info@whitecolumns.org
White Columns would like to thank Ricky Swallow for introducing us to Terry Williams’ work.
Terry Williams ‘Soft Sculpture’ is presented in collaboration and with the support of:
Arts Project Australia, Creative Victoria, and the State Government of Victoria.