Street art has a definite aesthetic influence on William Atkinson’s paintings, but it also deeply influences the structure of his studio time.
Contemporary artist William Atkinson has been active in the art world for over a decade working as an independent artist and gallery worker. Labeled under the pseudonym ‘Insurgency Inc.’, Atkinson’s work first took the form of street art in Los Angeles. As his artwork migrated into the gallery setting the artist began labeling the paintings with his given name, William Atkinson.
The street art made at the beginning of his career engaged with topics surrounding Los Angeles culture and communities around the city. This period of his artwork used familiar icons, or symbols, to connect with the cultural landscape of LA. He continues to utilize symbolism and familiar imagery in artworks, but Atkinson’s current work focuses predominantly on personal expression rather than an anonymous cultural critique. His first gallery shows included multi-media works that implemented found objects and paints. His found object art and multi-media work embrace iconography from popular media and urban landscapes.
Street art has a definite aesthetic influence on Atkinson’s paintings, but it also deeply influences the structure of his studio time. Due to street art’s public nature, artworks must be completed in one session, because they may be interrupted, covered, or altered over time. Rather than working on a single composition for months, Atkinson creates his artworks in a single studio session. Opting out of revisiting any of his pieces once the initial emotion has passed, he ensures a painting captures the energy of a single unfiltered expressive moment. Process and gestures are left exposed and unedited in hopes of conveying a less analyzed and more authentic expression of a sensation.
In addition to street art, Atkinson is influenced by artistic movements such as Abstract Expressionism and Assemblage. Abstract Expressionist artworks value and often show a record of the physical movement of an artist while painting. Atkinson uses a gestural mode of mark-making similar to abstract expressionism to impart his movement around the canvas and artwork surfaces. Visual and literary artists such as Franz Kline and Jack Kerouac, respectively, are a source of creative guidancefor Atkinson. Currently, he is pursuing a graduate degree in education to become a high school English teacher. His interest in cultural influences, beyond the mainstream art historical canon, are apparent in his chosen imagery and subject matter.
In each piece, the gestural paint strokes bring together objects, media, and imagery from various sources. Stenciled letters are emboldened next to inexact borders, spelling out phrases like ‘I’d have broken my back 2x’s to get here’ (in his artwork entitled Literally (2019)). In a body of his work, a single artwork may be divided into multiple frames resulting in a diptych or triptych effect, creating further meanings between the components. From dripping paint to text to magazine cut-outs, the viewer is able to construct a multitude of narratives and different interpretations of Atkinson’s collaged components.
As a mixed media artist, Atkinson collects imagery from his day-to-day life and includes and reorganizes these visuals into collaged and assembled pieces. By neighboring dynamic brush marks and lines with recognizable objects and symbols, Atkinson further highlights the contrast between organic mark-makings and popular imagery. The artworks often take on a limited color palette, mainly composed of black, white, and minimal primary colors. The lack of shading, and inclusion of negative space allows for a focus on both form and symbolism. The resultant combination of graphics, geometric shapes, and organic forms aesthetically follows in the vein of street art, pop art, and advertising.
His studio process’ reliance on instinctual motion and collage does not dictate Atkinson’s dedication of time and attention developing his paintings and conceptual framework outside the studio. He continues to learn about digital art, the art market, graffiti, poetry, and so forth which stimulate and invigorate the content of his paintings. In particular, Atkinson points to the importance of John Boyd’s OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) which is a decision-making strategy that inspires his decisions in the studio. While he celebrates the importance of spontaneity and instinct, Atkinson still prioritizes and dedicates time to learning about art history, literary history, psychology, and current events which then substantially inform his creative process and artistic subject matter.
He also has persistently cultivated cultural and arts communities throughout his studio career. Now based in Dallas, the artist belongs to arts organizations such as TACA (The Arts Community Alliance) and is a Visual Arts Committee Member Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Atkinson’s investment in arts education is reflected in his paintings which tackle general themes of truth, war, justice, and emotional impulses. These themes are pursued more specifically in his paintings by examining varied human relationships and dynamics between nature versus nurture.
Since his time as a street artist, Atkinson’s work has been shown across the country and Agora Gallery has included him in several group exhibitions. Regardless of the art’s settings in a gallery or on the street, each work has a subversive and experimental quality urging the previously accepted truths to be questioned. Due to the diverse range of materials and source imagery, the artist’s re-contextualization of figures and text prompts viewers of various backgrounds to consider new paths and perspectives of critical thought.
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Chava Krivchenia is an art historian, writer, and curator. She values promoting and collaborating with contemporary artists and has experience working in galleries, museums, and, studios. Chava holds a MA in Art History and specializes in environmental, installation, and assemblage art.