Richard “Richie” Williamson, a multi-faceted talent who excelled in fashion photography, design and videography, died on July 3 at the age of 75.
The Brooklyn-based designer was visiting family in Midland, Texas at the time of his death, which was due to natural causes, according to his sister-in-law Linda Williamson. A formal service is not planned, but a celebration of his life may take place at a later date.
While many may not know Richie Williamson by name, they may unknowingly know his work, noted senior fashion and material culture curator Matthew Yokobosky, who showcased some of the art of Williams in the Brooklyn Museum’s 2020 exhibition âStudio 54: Night Magic. â
Williamson and Dean Janoff designed the sets, dance floor and “The Moon and the Spoon” sign for the opening of Studio 54 in 1977. Describing Williamson as “the artist responsible for the design of one of most iconic symbols of the disco era”, Yokobosky worked with him to create a video installation of all the sets he designed at Studio 54.
“Today we don’t realize the moon was airbrushed. Richie was a master of the technique and did amazing photo editing in the pre-Photoshop days,” he said. said “Interestingly, when Adobe first tested Photoshop in beta, Richie was invited to participate.”
He was also proficient in video animation, as evidenced by his monthly Instagram surprises, Yokobosky said.
In the 1980s, it was Williamson’s photography, and more particularly his pioneering status in the development of an airbrush photography technique, in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, which contributed to his rise. He maintained a relationship with Warhol until the artist’s death in 1987.
Williamson’s portfolio included commercial photography for Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Revlon, L’Oreal USA, Ralph Lauren Corp., Guerlain and other fashion and beauty brands.
Architect R. Scott Bromley remembers meeting Williamson 45 years ago. âWe all just participated. I had also built the place. Who knew Studio 54 would become a household word? We were just building a nice little club with fun ideas.
As to why Williamson was still on the next incarnation of his interdisciplinary work, Bromley, who runs Bromley Caldari Architects PC, said: âDesign never leaves you, no matter what you do. Design is part of life, if you are a designer of anything. Whether you are an architect, scenographer or other, it is in your blood. It’s your life. If things don’t work in one direction, you take it and go in another direction.
Williamson was born in De Queen, Arkansas, and grew up in Texas, first in Crane, then in Midland. Her father worked for Gulf Oil and her mother was a housewife. As a high school student, Williamson had the goal of one day moving to New York to build a career. Years later, his signature all-black style matched the city’s unofficial dress code. “He always wore black. It was versatile, practical. He could wear it in winter or summer. It looked good everywhere,” Linda Williamson said.
The New York-based creator had been in Texas for about a month, chronologically organizing his art and archives, which were stored in one of his brother’s homes. It is too early to say what will happen to the archives, which are now in the custody of Linda Williamson.
He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969 majoring in studio art with a double minor in French and art history. After graduating, he moved to New York and started in scenography. Her involvement in Tom Even’s play “Why Hanna’s Skirt Won’t Stay Down” helped raise her profile.
Williamson and Janoff opened the Aerographics studio in 1975. Over the years, the company has not only been commissioned by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell of Studio 54, but has also created sets for musicians such as Kiss, Todd Rundgren, The Cars and Barry Manilow, among others. . During his run at Interview, he photographed haute couture shows and shows like Carnevale in Paris.
In 1994, Williamson opened video production company Wild Kind Productions, once again with Janoff. They have written, shot and edited music videos for artists like Jay-Z, DMX, LL Cool J and Ghostface Killah.
Schrager was unavailable for comment on Williamson. However, in a March 2020 interview with WWD, Schrager said a lot of people thought the “The Moon and the Spoon” prop promoted cocaine use. “Nothing could be further from the truth, it’s all part of the supervised aspect of a nightclub where it all starts underground. It was a bit [about] have that arrogance and upset the status quo. It was not about promoting drugs. We certainly had nothing to do with the drugs in there. And there was no more drugs there than there was anywhere else in those days.
Former Bloomingdale’s fashion creative director Fred J. DeVito collaborated with Williamson on advertisements in the late ’70s and early ’80s featuring models like Janice Dickinson and Rene Russo (before she embarks on feature films). DeVito, who runs his own agency, has highlighted Williamson’s range of projects, from classic commercials (including one for Bloomingdale’s Studio 54 jeans) to beauty and more recently to Instagram animated photo montages highlighting personal and global issues.
Myra Scheer, who was at one time the custodian of Studio 54’s coveted guest list and is now co-host of “The Marc & Myra Show” on Sirius XM’s Studio54 radio, described Williamson as “a gentle, kind and generous spirit, who was always happy to help people, all about joy and positivity.He created digital collages for The Felix Organization’s dance-a-thon and provided medallions Moon and Spoon to the non-profit organization to auction them off to benefit foster children.
Having collaborated with Williamson on various art projects, Adam Isaac Itkoff said, âRichie was a true Renaissance man and an interdisciplinary artist. [working in] everything from fashion to music video editing and set design, of course, because everyone knows his work from Studio 54. Truly in every way he was a true groundbreaking artist.
Williamson served as art director and co-creator of Itkoff’s independent short titled “Lovely Nowhere” which is in production and focuses on one man’s journey through New York and then metaphysics.
As for what he would like people to think when they hear his name or see his work, Linda Williamson said, âWe all know that art is very subjective. He would want people to take away whatever it meant to them.
âHis goals in life were to enjoy life and enjoy those around him. Whoever was around was having a good time. He was so informative and so funny. any level anywhere in the world and have a wonderful speech. It didn’t matter where they were from,” she said. “He was always aware of the other person, very caring and kind. “
Williamson is survived by his brothers Stanley and Robert and their extended families.