Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness

Text by Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, Christopher Williams, and Matthew S. Witkovsky

Representing Christopher Williams’s first publication with a major American museum, this illuminating and unusual volume is equal parts artist’s book and exhibition catalogue. Over the course of his thirty-year career, Williams (b. 1956) has crafted photographs that engage—often through uncanny mimicry—the conventions of photojournalism, picture archives, and commercial imagery, as well as their sociopolitical contexts and implications. The book includes a trio of essays by curators Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, and Matthew S. Witkovsky, which explore Williams’s engagement with his artistic peers and predecessors, with cinema (particularly the film-essay), and with the methods and modes of display and publicity in the art world, in addition to a transcript of a talk Williams delivered on the work of John Chamberlain. These more conventional contributions are “interrupted” by additional historical and contemporary textual and visual materials that were selected by the artist himself and are occasionally presented in facsimile form. An exhibition history, bibliography, and illustrated list of works round out the publication.


Publisher: Art Institute of Chicago / Museum of Modern Art / Whitechapel Gallery

Artists: Christopher Williams

Contributors: Mark Godfrey, Roxana Marcoci, Christopher Williams, and Matthew S. Witkovsky

Designer: Petra Hollenbach

Publication Date: 2015

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in (21.6 x 26.7 cm)

Pages: 186

Reproductions: 46 color, 77 b&w

ISBN: 9780865592643

Retail: $45 US & Canada | £30 | €38

Status: Available

Christopher Williams

In the 1970s, Christopher Williams studied at the California Institute of the Arts under the first wave of West Coast conceptual artists, including John Baldessari and Douglas Huebler, only to become one of his generation’s leading conceptualists. Williams’s work is a critical investigation of the medium of photography and more broadly the vicissitudes of industrial culture, in particular its structures of representation and classification. Using the process of reproduction as a point of entry, the artist manipulates the conventions of advertising, the superficiality of surface, and ultimately the history of Modernism. Deeply political, historical, and sometimes personal, the photographs are meant to evoke a subtle shift in our perception by questioning the communication mechanisms and aesthetic conventions that influence our understanding of reality.

All Christopher Williams books