Sue Williams�s Subterfuge

 Without the prompting of her 303 Gallery show�s title � �WTC, WWIII, Couch Size� � few viewers would apprehend Sue Williams�s richly evocative new color field paintings as what they are: crazed essays on life in the time of 9/11, the signature disaster of the present epoch. The central component of these busy, lively pieces is the discordance between the prepossessing gaiety of their bright colors and jangled line, on one hand, and the more submerged gruesomeness of the body parts and distressed buildings actually depicted, on the other. But in addition to hearts and livers, there are of course penises and vaginas. Whatever cloud of civilizational angst hovers over us, she suggests, our lives as sentient, indulgent beings can�t help but go on.

[Image at top: Sue Williams, The Serpent, 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 54 x 64 inches. Courtesy 303 Gallery]

In a way, Williams�s reaction to 9/11 is reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionists� resort to emotion and the joy (or struggle) of process in the painful aftermath of World War II, as the nuclear age dawned and the Cold War emerged. But there�s more to her work than tribute. The pieces, like many commercial canvases, are explicitly and self-consciously �couch size.� And they are not as resolutely abstract as, say, a Pollack or a Still but rather just �anthropomorphically abstract,� to paraphrase the gallery’s press release. The result is not flight from doom but instead a more Warholian message � one that rings true � about the infiltration of horror into even the most ostensibly cheery public imagery.

Sue Williams, Ministry of Hate, 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 84 inches. Courtesy 303 Gallery.
 Sue Williams, Otis, 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 50 x 60 inches.
Sue Williams: WTC, WWIII, Couch Size,” 303 Gallery, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through February 22, 2014.

Related posts:
Abstract Expressionist New York: Line and legacy (2010)
Sue Williams’s linemaking logic (2008)


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  1. WTC, WWIII…couch size – Seriously!? Give me a break,I can't even think… How am I supposed to take this work seriously with an enormous joke of a title like that? Silly, graduate work type of thing happening here – Sad that Sue isn't in Grad school.

  2. Attention galleries. If you want to be taken seriously, then have thumbnails or roll-over images from your artists. Please don't require me to click on every friggin artist's name to see wha'chu got.

  3. The title may be a joke, but the paintings aren't. Of course, if you really "can't even think"–and I believe you–that wouldn't matter.

  4. People who can't even think should sign their names. Stupid little postings like that one remind me of desperate "street artists" who hang things up around Chelsea, hating on it and wanting it badly at the same time. El-Puko!

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