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Robert Williams, Death on the Boards, 1992, oil on canvas, 60 × 84".

Robert Williams: The Father of Exponential Imagination, by Robert Williams. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2019. 484 pages.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING as a “popular imagination,” but some artists do access and describe localized dreamworlds comprising popular icons, histories, and lore shared if not by an entire populace then by sizable groups. Robert Williams is one such mythologist, his devotion to the arcana of twentieth-century culture suffusing narrative paintings indebted as much to 1950s Benzedrine-powered cartooning as to classicism. Like other practitioners of a hyperbolic figuration whose perversions and excesses hinge on American subjects, such as John Currin, Peter Saul, Jim Shaw, and Lisa Yuskavage, he mines outré languages, ideas, and techniques to offer up an expansive vision of the national id. If his friend and collector Ed Ruscha focuses on the anomie beneath the slick finish

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