Amanda Williams, Restrictive Covenant (Chicago)
Restrictive Covenant (2021) by Amanda Williams
What color is housing discrimination? In Amanda Williams’ ongoing practice of using color to highlight the negative spatial impact of racist and segregationist US laws and policies, she has painted an interior hallway of the 6018North house in Sherwin Williams 7630—”Raisin.”
What would seem in the present day to be an insignificant and mundane act—selecting a house-paint wall color, and coloring one’s home according to personal style and as an outward expression of identity—was once something that was actively denied to Black families. This was the direct result of restrictive covenants.
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, as well as her own family biography, were instrumental in legally eliminating that constraint.
Today, Williams’ painting of this wall calls out and marks ongoing injustice, as well as reclaims the small joy of defining one’s own space with color.
BIO: Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Her creative practice employs color as an operative means for drawing attention to the complex ways race informs how we assign value to the spaces we occupy. The landscapes in which she operates are the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have detrimentally shaped much of the United States. Williams’ installations, sculptures, paintings, and works on paper seek to inspire new ways of looking at the familiar and in the process, raise questions about the state of urban space and ownership in America.
Amanda has exhibited widely, including the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the MCA Chicago, and a public commission with Andres L. Hernandez, at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis. She is co-designer of a forthcoming permanent monument to Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn NY and part of the Museum Design Team for the Obama Presidential Center. Williams has been recognized as a USA Ford Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Painting and Sculpture grantee, a 3Arts Next Level awardee, and is the inaugural Artist-In-Residence at Smith College. She is a highly sought after lecturer, including a 2018 TedTalk. Amanda sits on the boards of the Graham Foundation, The Black Reconstruction Collective, and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.
Her work is in several permanent collections including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, NY). In her most recent participatory artwork Embodied Sensations, Williams considers how COVID-19 has reshaped how we move, and how we relate to one another. She examines the stark inequities and systemic injustices that underlie such shifts; asking us to reflect on control and freedom, isolation and community, prejudice and violence, love and fear. Her projects have recently been published in Black Futures and Radical Architecture of the Future. Amanda lives and works on the South Side of Chicago.
(Amanda Williams, portrait photo by Tony Smith)
(“Why I turned Chicago’s abandoned homes into art” | Amanda Williams
TED Talk, YouTube, Mar 20, 2019)