Kandis Williams

Kandis Williams: history and struggle

Celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs with a series of 20 articles on 20 featured artists.

The collages of Los Angeles-based artist Kandis Williams look like Rorschach tests. But in the era of Black Lives Matter, they recall the racist traditions of the US and the ongoing struggle of the black civil rights movement.


Kandis Williams's artistic practice is extraordinarily diverse. It includes collage, performance, video, assemblage and installation. She also writes and publishes activist and academic texts through Cassandra Press, which she co-founded. Her work exposes the latently violent mechanisms to which the black body, particularly the female black body, is subjected. In doing so, Williams draws on discourses as diverse as psychoanalysis, critical race theory, semiotics and social psychology – as well as on subjects as varied as botany, theatre and ballet. She has become one of the most important voices in the contemporary US art scene. In 2019, "The Oratory Command: X Carmichael King Hampton” (2016), a collage from her “Disfiguring Traditions” series, was acquired at Frieze Los Angeles for the Deutsche Bank Collection. 

Capturing historical moments of activism 

The work is composed of hand movements and gestures of famous black activists and civil rights campaigners, in this case the hands of Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael. For her series, Williams collected reproductions of hands from historical photographs: Malcolm X's rhetorically raised index finger, his open palm; Gloria Richardson's defiant thrust at a National Guardsman's bayonet; Dr Martin Luther King Jr's hands thrown up in surrender. These photocopied gestures are repeated in the shapes of crosses, grids, flowers and clouds, as if the viewer is looking into a kaleidoscope. Williams creates an ornament of violence and resistance, an equally poetic and analytic reflection of power and oppression. The photographs are historical. But the collage series subtly references the current political situation and systemic racism in the US, at a time when Black Lives Matter has become one of the most important movements active today.

About this article series

This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture

Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programs, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.


Please find more information on Deutsche Bank’s art programme at db.com/art and follow us on Instagram @deutschebankart


Main image: Portrait, Kandis Williams. Photograph by Lelanie Foster. Courtesy of Morán Morán


Developed by 

Deutsche Bank Art & Culture

Art & Culture

xaviera simmons profile

Deutsche Bank x Frieze 20th anniversary

Xaviera Simmons: challenging the construction of identity

One of the most accomplished artists of her generation, Xaviera Simmons is also one of its most outspoken voices. We take a look at her work as part of our series on 20 artists with whom we have collaborated and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Dec. 27, 2023

tom pope artist deutsche

Deutsche Bank x Frieze 20th anniversary

Tom Pope: performance with purpose

Whether he’s exposing photographs with water pistols or creating a membership club that only fits one person, performance artist Tom Pope's absurdly comic works always have a serious, existential side. We take a look at the work of the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises (DBACE) 2011 winner.

Dec. 22, 2023

yinka shonibare credit tom jamieson

Deutsche Bank x Frieze 20th anniversary

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA: navigating tangled histories

One of the artistic pioneers in postcolonial discourse, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA explores the tangled relationship between Africa and Europe and their economic and political histories. We take a look at his work as part of our series on 20 artists with whom we have collaborated and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Dec. 21, 2023

Tracey emin profile

Deutsche Bank x Frieze 20th anniversary

Tracey Emin: conveying personal experiences across media

One of Britain’s most famous contemporary artists, Tracey Emin is renowned for her autobiographical and deeply personal works spanning a variety of media. She has collaborated with Deutsche Bank in support of charity and her work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Dec. 13, 2023

See more

The content and materials on this website may be considered Marketing Material. The market price of an investment can fall as well as rise and you might not get back the amount originally invested.  The products, services, information and/or materials contained within these web pages may not be available for residents of certain jurisdictions. Please consider the sales restrictions relating to the products or services in question for further information. Deutsche Bank does not give tax or legal advice; prospective investors should seek advice from their own tax advisers and/or lawyers before entering into any investment.