Neil Williams American, 1934-1988

Considered an “artist’s artist” Neil Williams’ relatively short career was punctuated by his influential involvement in Minimalism and is most known for his pioneering of the shaped canvas alongside the abstract giant, Frank Stella. Both would go on to share studio space in Sagaponack, NY alongside sculptor John Chamberlain. 

Williams was born in Bluff Utah in 1934, and at the age of 15 he ran away, lied about his age, and joined the US Marine Corps. Following his stint in the military, Williams attended the San Francisco Art Institute where he first showed his works at the City Lights Book Store. After receiving his BA in 1959, William’s quickly moved to New York City.
Williams strung together showings at the Green Gallery (1964) and the Andre Emmerich Gallery (1966 and 1968) both in New York City, and the Dwan Gallery (1966) in Los Angeles. Even further, he was a part of the now defining “Systemic Painting” (1966) group show at the Guggenheim curated by Lawrence Alloway, featuring artists like Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Kenneth Nolan, and Robert Ryman. Championing his shaped canvases, Neil William’s was also an archetypal example of what it meant to experiment with what was then known as hardline abstraction. 
Williams also participated in the 1967 and 1973 Whitney Art Annuals and received the Guggenheim fellowship in 1968. He held a solo exhibition in 1982 in Brazil where he would hope to relocate and then a career retrospective at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City in 1986.
Examples of Williams’s work can be found in public collections throughout the United States, including the Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania; the MIT-List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado; the Guild Hall Museum of East Hampton, East Hampton, New York; the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York. A posthumous exhibition of Williams’s work was held at the Galleria Luisa Strina in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1989.