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Noted Artist William Powhida to Speak in Hartford Art School’s Auerbach Lecture Series


Posted 10/01/2015
Posted by David Isgur


William Powhida, a visual artist and former art critic who lives and works in Brooklyn, will present a talk as part of the Hartford Art School’s Auerbach Lecture Series. In his work, he makes fun of the art world to highlight the paradoxes and absurdities of economic and social value systems that keep the sphere of visual art afloat on a tide of inequality. Powhida’s work, reflecting his critical background, displays a concentrated fascination with the politics of access and the powers that control the assignment of value in the art world. All roles are fair game, from nouveau-hot artists and the market-setting collectors that buy them, to the branded dealers that sell the work and the critics paid to provide intellectual justification for the pricepoints.

Powhida’s talk, being held on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 2:30 p.m. in the University’s Wilde Auditorium, is free and open to the public. The program is made possible by The Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund.

Powhida is also a founding member of Placeholder, a group committed to developing long-term, rent-stabilized studio space in New York. He is at least partially responsible for exhibitions including “Overculture” at Postmasters Gallery, “Bill by Bill” at Charlie James Gallery, “POWHIDA” at Marlborough Gallery, and “#class” at Winkleman Gallery.

To soften what might appear a direct editorial voice, Powhida projects his commentary through the lens of an alter-ego, one with whom he shares a name (William Powhida). This alter-ego closely resembles any number of freshly minted art world ‘geniuses,’ though Powhida’s character happens to exhibit all of the worst traits imaginable in any coddled enfant-terrible art star. The fictional Powhida is petulant, narcissistic, and debauched. He has enormous feelings of entitlement, and a perspective so firmly rooted in solipsism that it seems an impossible exaggeration. This art star on the verge of self-immolation documents his misery and rage against the manifold injustices of the art world through a series of To Do Lists, Enemies Lists, and monomaniacal screeds that take on the look of disturbed 3am rants.

However, not all of this work exists in the first person. In addition to the alter-ego’s jeremiads, Powhida adds the sycophantic voice of the press ¬ a vital part of the star-making process. Ostensibly a frequent subject of Man About Town profiles in fashion magazines and newspapers, the alter-ego’s more offensive conduct and outsized claims are documented in this way.

Which brings us to the startling visual power of Powhida’s work. All of the content above, from the character’s first-person attacks to press profiles by the New York Post, the LA Weekly, and 944 Magazine (examples) are all rendered in beautiful trompe l’oeil compositions that use various combinations of graphite, gouache, and colored pencil on either panel or paper. It is in fact the visual presentation of Powhida’s arguments, coupled with their humor, which makes Powhida’s sometimes scathing commentaries so much fun to digest.

His complicit criticism has been rewarded with gallery representation, numerous exhibitions and critical debate. He was born in 1976 in upstate New York and still lives and works in New York City, despite the crushing costs.

Powhida earned his BFA from Syracuse University, and took his MFA from Hunter College. He is represented by Platform Gallery in Seattle, and Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles.

For more information, contact Karen DeGrace, executive assistant to the dean of the Hartford Art School, at 860.768.4392, or degrace@hartford.edu.