William Villalongo: Myths and Migrations

Friday, May 3 – Aug 4, 2024

227 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53703

William Villalongo: Myths and Migrations showcases 34 works created in the last two decades by the Brooklyn-based artist (William Villalongo). Highly recognized for his paintings, collages, and signature velour paper cut-outs, Villalongo’s striking visual narratives invite the viewer to engage with the complexities and precarity of Black existence.

Known for his imaginative approach towards combining various genres with sensuous materials, the artist reimagines historical narratives and myths to underscore the erasure of the Black and immigrant experience. In his early depictions of a mythical, hot-house world filled with an almost all-female cast, (Rhombus, 2010) the artist turns to the art historical canon to wryly comment on the struggle for artistic acceptance and reassess African-American artistic histories.

More recently, Villalongo utilizes myth and history to expand our understanding of Black culture and its layered past throughout the millennia. Villalongo’s large-scale mixed-media series of a single Black male protagonist enveloped within a swirling mix of cultural artifacts and natural elements emphasizes transformation, resilience, and beauty (Black Metamorphosis 1452, 2020).  Metaphorically suggesting a Black subject who continually modifies and redefines one’s identity while navigating the world through time and space, Villalongo’s compositions call attention to the fraught condition of Black life as they simultaneously honor the transformative powers of the human spirit.

This exhibition is organized by the Grinnell College Museum of Art.

Image: William Villalongo, Black Metamorphosis 1452, 2020. Acrylic, cut velour paper, and pigment print collage, 80 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Eileen and Richard Ekstract.