The Texture of a “Synonym” in the New Works of Justin Williams

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Roberts Projects, Los Angeles // January 27, 2024 – March 09, 2024

I’ll be honest in that I sort of like a good Google search for a synonym when I get stuck. Some use ChatGPT, I use a synonym search. I thought about this over the weekend when I was looking at these new paintings by Justin Williams, these elegant, articulate, story-paintings that seem to be an entire folktale on one canvas. We’ve written so much about figurative painting over the last 30 years and somehow, Justin Williams’ new show at Roberts Projects feels like the right synonym to describe what a good painting should be. It’s all here. 

Born in Melbourne and now working in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Williams seems at ease in front of canvas, building a story, articulating a feeling that is both nostaligic and nuanced but also universal. One of the standout paintings in the show, Tap has sprung a leak, this trap is our trap, and the glass will only ever spill what it contains (2023) has a visceral setting of a relationship, a domestic chore, a new life sprung from youth and now adult. The looks on the faces, both concerned and unknowing, is a special trait of the work. They are making coffee, but they may as well be doing a chemistry experiment. And that is where Williams is so gifted, leaving you wanting more and trying to find a new word to describe your feeling. That is what a good Synonym is for. —Evan Pricco

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