- Tom Williams
(b Chicago, IL, 1941).
American painter. He received a BFA (1964) and an MFA (1966) from the Art Institute of Chicago, and he subsequently moved to New York. In 1979, his work was included in the important New Image Painting exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and it has subsequently been compared with that of other artists of this generation, including Jennifer Bartlett, Neil Jenney and Robert Moskowitz (b 1935). He is particularly known for using cotton balls dipped in acrylic paint to make mosaic-style images that reflected on, among other things, the history of cotton and Byzantine mosaics.
During the early 1970s, Zucker began making images by applying cotton balls in gridded arrangements to the surfaces of his canvases. The resulting compositions presented idiosyncratic elaborations of modernist painting’s medium specificity under the guise of the image’s return. Zucker achieved this effect by substituting cotton balls for the stretched cotton canvas that was so often described as the essence of painting by modernist critics. His work has often featured whimsical subjects such as pirate ships, wizards and blimps, but he has typically subjected them to a process of formal transformation that downplayed their conventional meanings. In a series of compositions from the early 1990s, for example, he stretched sash cord across wooden panels to create eccentric grids that suggested the contours of cactuses in radically abstract form. Subsequently, he made a series of “box paintings” in which he poured liquid paint into the recessed spaces of partitioned wooden panels and allowed it to dry. The resulting compositions evoked the flat, modernist geometry of works by Picasso in the late 1920s or ...