Coming to prominence during the post-Reagan malaise of the early 1990s, Sue Williams belongs to a generation of New York artists who both directly and indirectly critiqued America's patriarchic society and art world. Unleashing virulent strains of post-traumatic reckoning with ideas of power, womanhood, and systems of oppression, Williams' raison d'être of the time could be summed up in the title of one of her best-known paintings, "The Art World Can Suck My Proverbial Dick." As her work developed, images of the body were stretched and contorted into gestural thumps within ironically phlegmatic color fields, vestiges of receding memories and the psychological nature of time. By the late 90s and early 00s, her paintings had become almost completely abstract, dancing expressionist riffs on classicist techniques of the Great White Male pantheon.
Her more recent canvases synthesize modes of painting from her past work into kinetic explosions of color and form. Permeated with a physical attenuation to bodily function and spatial awareness, as well as the dark forces at work on the mind through the conscious and subconscious manipulations of government, media and information, her paintings are ciphers that begin to unravel the miasmatic psychic weight that we live under as humans.
In new works such as "Memory and Paint" and "Time Line," tornadoes engulf these fragmented symbols of consciousness, as reminders of the quaintness of domestic architecture, decorative landscaping and the banality of suburbia are swept up with file cabinets and skyscrapers - the unseen power structures that dictate happiness and comfort to the masses. They can also be seen as an attempt at expressing loss of loved ones through age and entropy, or slices of home and windows to memories, cozy or frightening. "Chicken Leg in Yellow" plays with traditional mores of rural family life, as fragments of animals and children frolic together in an anamnesis of blissful ignorance. Williams approaches her subjects with a tender repulsion, a seemingly contradictory conceit that has become a through-line in her distinctive paintings over the past 30 years.