William Scott (born 1964, San Francisco) often uses his own life story as a starting point. At the same time, his work reflects upon how it is to live in the United States today and raises questions regarding citizenship, community and democracy. This exhibition is William Scott’s largest comprehensive presentation made up of over 100 works, including paintings, drawings, masks and architectural models.
Over the past 30 years, Scott has developed his own artistic practice while working at Creative Growth. Creative Growth is an art center in Oakland, just outside San Francisco, where people with development disabilities are given the opportunity to work and advance creatively as artists. Combining image and text, his colourful paintings tie in stylistically with current popular culture. Recurring themes include portraiture, science fiction and city architecture.
In his portraits, Scott depicts famous actors, musicians, politicians and civil rights activists – from Prince, Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou to Barack Obama and Kamala Harris – alongside himself, family members, neighbours and women from the Baptist church where he has been a lifelong member of the congregation. In the self-portrait series Another Life, William Scott rewrites history and depicts alternative parallel lives where dreams and wishes can come true. In the series we meet William as, for example, Billy the Kid – the successful basketball player.
Every year in the lead-up to Halloween, Scott creates his own masks – Darth Vader, Frankenstein or Spiderman. The masks offer him the possibility to become someone else, and once again to change the face of reality. In Scott’s eyes Darth Vader is a good person. Scott wears one of his Darth Vader masks in his film Beautiful Place on Earth, featured in the exhibition.
William Scott sees himself more as an architect than an artist and attempts to create people-friendly urban architecture in his work. In Praise Frisco he establishes his utopian visions about how San Francisco should be reborn as a socially equal city – without violence, crime or drugs.
Scott’s endeavour to make the world a better place is visible throughout his creative practice; with the help of his self-constructed organisation Skyline Friendly Organization (SFO) Scott is able to correct the mistakes of history through his paintings. He can, for example, allow people who died too early, from addiction, gun violence or covid-19, to come back to a better life.
William Scott uses art as a tool to transform reality for the better by re-imagining the past – even his own life – and by creatively visualising a better and happier world.
William Scott is represented at MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition William Scott is a collaboration with Studio Voltaire in London and Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, USA.
William Scott, born in 1964, San Francisco, has worked with Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California since 1992. Scott has been featured in solo exhibitions and projects at Ortuzar Projects, New York (2020); White Columns, New York (2006, 2009), and his work has been exhibited at Hayward Gallery, London (2013), Gavin Brown’s New York (2007), Berkeley Art Museum, California (2011) and Palais de Tokyo, Paris ( 2008). William Scott’s work is part of the permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.
Creative Growth was founded in 1974 and is a non-profit organization based in Oakland, California, working with artists with functional variations by providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation. Creative Growth is home to over 140 artists working in a variety of media, and works of art made in the studio have been acquired by prominent collections and museums around the world, including MoMA, SFMOMA, Smithsonian, Studio Museum of Harlem, Collection de L’Art Brut and American Folk Art Museum.