Picker Art Gallery, Dana Arts Center, 2nd floor
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Philadelphia-area artist William Earle Williams (b. 1950) uses his camera to expose the obscured histories of chattel slavery in the US and transform how everyday places are understood and experienced. His most recent body of work examines this history within a global context and how the development, growth, and malevolent persistence of slavery intersects within Great Britain, the US, and the British West Indies.

A Wicked Commerce presents Williams’s examination of the transatlantic slave trade in forty-three photographs, many exhibited for the first time. Featuring sites in British port cities, Caribbean islands, and the US—south and north—these pictures reveal the infrastructures that fueled the triangular trade and positioned Britain and the US as industrial powers, simultaneously creating an institution that damaged innumerable lives and continues to persist in their physical and social landscapes.

The exhibition is accompanied by a Picker Laboratory for Academic Engagement (PLAE) Space installation, featuring additional photographs from Williams’s Underground Railroad series and examining the triangular trade’s local history.

William Earle Williams is the Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Fine Arts, and Curator of Photography at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. His photographs have been widely exhibited, including group and solo exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the George Eastman Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the National Gallery of Art, Smith College, and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His work is represented in many public collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the National Gallery of Art. Williams has received individual artist fellowships from the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.


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