William Scott

Studio Voltaire reopened with a major exhibition of William Scott – the first significant survey of the artist’s prolific 30–year practice.

While deeply rooted in personal history, Scott’s paintings address wider questions of citizenship, community and cultural memory. His portraits of predominantly black figures encompass actors, musicians, politicians and civil rights leaders – from Prince, Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou to Barack Obama and Kamala Harris – as well as self-portraits, family members, his neighbours and women from the Baptist church he has attended since childhood.

Scott’s works can be seen as a form of activism, eloquently describing his desire for social change. Frequently describing himself as an architect, his works reimagine the social topography of his native San Francisco, which re-emerges as the utopian ‘Praise Frisco’: a safe and gleaming neighbourhood. Scott’s alternative proposals for urban development replace penthouses with community centres and revisit the Bayview housing complexes he grew up in; reckoning with the rapid gentrification of the city.

While Scott’s works are hopeful and sincere, they equally confront loss, as well as ideas of renewal and rebirth. His long-standing series of invented Skyline Friendly Organisation ‘citizen ships’ take the form of b–movie flying saucers, designed to bring back those who have died to start a new life. His Another Life series of self–portraits explores the intersections of faith, disability and desire – often depicting a younger version of himself as athletic Los Angeles Lakers basketball star ‘Billy the Kid’ or a young man happily attending prom. For Scott, painting is a transformative as well as a documentary tool; a way to re-craft his personal narrative and even undertake extraordinary acts.

A special presentation of large–scale public realm works has been selected by Scott to complement this survey. Working with landmark sites in the area local to Studio Voltaire, including Clapham Methodist Church, the presentation will animate Studio Voltaire’s neighbourhood and provide unique moments for residents and visitors to encounter Scott’s practice in the everyday. 

A comprehensive, fully illustrated new monograph will provide the first substantial overview of Scott’s practice. Including new critical writing and a wide-ranging collection of Scott’s works to date, the monograph will be published later this year as a companion to the exhibition.

Studio Voltaire has partnered with Creative Growth, a noted nonprofit in Oakland, California serving artists with disabilities, to present this exhibition. Scott has practiced at Creative Growth since 1992. 

This exhibition will be the first-ever solo presentation outside of the US and will travel to Malmö Konsthall, Sweden in 2022.

This commission is supported by:
Marty Eisenberg, Ales Ortuzar, This is Clapham BID and Omni.

With additional support:
Art Fund and Aquum.

Studio Voltaire’s opening programmes have received support from Cockayne Grants for the Arts (The London Community Foundation).

  1. Scaffold podcast 53: William Scott & Sarah Calendar Meyer, 5 January 2022

    Scaffold is a podcast hosted by Matthew Blunderfield, featuring fortnightly interviews with architects, artists & designers. For this episode, Blunderfield discusses the work of William Scott, a self-taught artist based in Oakland, California. Scott works out of a gallery and studio called Creative Growth that advances the inclusion of artists with developmental disabilities. 



    William Scott: Praise Frisco, 21 December 2021

    The Cultural Meaning of the City and The World and the City 

    Studio Voltaire and The Architecture Foundation presented a series of talks which take the work of artist William Scott as a starting point to discuss wider concerns in architecture, including the role of biography and cultural memory in citymaking, and the relationships between power, policy and place making. With Shawn Adams (PoOR Collective); Michael Maltzan (Michael Maltzan Architecture); David Ogunmuyiwa (Architecture Doing Place); and Akil and Seth Scafe-Smith (RESOLVE Collective). Chaired by Nana Biamah-Ofosu (Studio NYALI). 



    Open House, 10–11 December 2021

    A two-day programme of open studios, workshops, talks, screenings, DJs and special events, including:

    Thompson Hall in conversation with Dr. Mark Sealy

    Thompson Hall was joined for an informal conversation with curator, cultural historian Dr. Mark Sealy to discuss the artist’s work, intentions and forthcoming residency at Autograph, from March 2022. 

    Hall’s intricate, large-scale paintings and drawings respond to the artist’s experiences, art history and his life in London. His recent work has shifted to explore inequalities in society, politics, the impact of Covid, social change, and his own personal history. 



    Ain Bailey, Nabihah Iqbal and Nadine Noor Ahmad

    An evening of music from Ain Bailey (sound artist and DJ), Nabihah Iqbal (Ninja Tunes, NTS Radio, BBC Residency) and Nadine Noor Ahmad (Pxssy Palace, LESBIENNALE). 


    Workshop: RESOLVE Collective Emotional Mapping

    ‘Emotional Mapping’ was a workshop led by design collective RESOLVE, responding to the work of Studio Voltaire’s current exhibition by artist William Scott. William Scott self-identifies as an architect as well as an artist, reimagining the social topography of his hometown of San Francisco which re–emerges as the utopian ‘Praise Frisco’: a safe and gleaming neighbourhood. In this spirit, participants were invited to build a new, collective narrative of the local area: one that focuses on people and neighbourhoods, aiming to strengthen community ties and build resilience – much needed priorities in our rapidly changing cities. RESOLVE is an interdisciplinary design collective that combines architecture, engineering, technology and art to address social challenges.

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    Film Screening: Medicine For Melancholy, written and directed by Barry Jenkins

    A special screening of acclaimed director Barry Jenkins’s first feature film, Medicine for Melancholy (2009). A love story of bikes and one-night stands told through two African-American twenty-something’s dealing with issues of class, identity, and the evolving conundrum of being a minority in rapidly gentrifying San Francisco — a city with the smallest proportional black population of any other major American city.


    Djofray Makumbu: Lonely Tears, 1 December 2021

    Djofray Makumbu staged Lonely Tears, a new performance and audiovisual work commissioned as part of the public programme accompanying William Scott’s exhibition. The work combined illustration, stop motion animation and sound — including music composed by the artist — with an intersecting performance. The piece enacts a looping conversation between the artist and an antagonist, who represents a personification of his inner voice.



    Claudia Williams, NOON NOON NICE NICE, 23 November 2021

    This public event followed a month-long period where Claudia Williams had been working in residence at Studio Voltaire, as well as leading workshops with One Trust and Lansdowne School. Williams’ unique drawing language makes reference to her love of Reggae, Soul and R&B music — including Bob Marley and The Wailers and Al Green. Her works on paper include self portraits, depictions of family members including her sister Dionne and mother Elaine, and London. This event is part of the public programme accompanying our current exhibition by William Scott and is produced in collaboration with ActionSpace.

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    William Scott Exhibition Tour with Tom di Maria, 7 October 2021

    A special tour of William Scott's exhibition led by Tom di Maria, Director of Creative Growth.


    Tom di Maria, Matthew Higgs & William Scott, 10 February 2021

    Tom di Maria, Director of the celebrated Creative Growth Arts Center, was joined in conversation with Matthew Higgs, Director and Chief Curator of White Columns, to discuss the work of William Scott in anticipation of his forthcoming exhibition at Studio Voltaire. Di Maria and Higgs discussed the artist’s work ahead of his first–ever solo institutional exhibition outside of the USA, as well as the wider work and importance of Creative Growth, where Scott has practiced since 1992. The event also included a pre-recorded studio visit with the artist, in which Scott discussed recent work with di Maria and Creative Growth’s Studio Special Projects Coordinator, Kathleen Henderson.


  2. William Scott (b.1964, San Francisco) has worked with the celebrated Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California since 1992. Scott has presented 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 enterprise New York (2007), Berkeley Art Museum, California (2011) and Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2008). Scott’s work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

  3. Founded in 1974, Creative Growth is a non-profit based in Oakland, California that serves artists with disabilities by providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition, and representation. Creative Growth is home to over 140 artists who work in a variety of media, and artwork made at the studio has been acquired by prominent collections worldwide, including MoMA, SFMOMA, the Smithsonian, the Studio Museum of Harlem, Collection de L’Art Brut and American Folk Art Museum.


  4. All images courtesy of the artist and Creative Growth

    William Scott, Untitled, 2021

    William Scott, Untitled, 2019

    William Scott, Untitled, 2016

    William Scott, Untitled, 2014

    William Scott, Untitled, 2016

    William Scott, Untitled, 2014

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