"There are always two things going on: the one you can see and the one you can't see. That's what interests me." – William Villalongo
To create good new art, an artist has to know a lot about what came before them; then use that knowledge not to emulate but to extend. William Villalongo is a painter and installation artist who is interested in skewing traditional concepts found in art and history. These include the value we place on traditional Western art and history (European); the classical female; cultural typecasting, and symbolism.
He picks up these threads and weaves in concepts of race, identity, and history to create paintings that confront traditional notions of the male gaze. We are peeking through the woods (a classic construct in painting), and observing the “nymphs” at their leisure. But instead of being passive and meeting western ideals of beauty, these women are engaged in building their own sense of culture and society out of symbols found in the western world.
William Villalongo is a Brooklyn, NY based artist born in Hollywood, FL and raised in the town of Bridgeton, NJ. He received a BFA in 1999 from Cooper Union and an MFA in painting in 2001 from Tyler School of Art. Mr. Villalongo’s work was first introduced to the public through his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2004 and PS1Contemporary Art Center’s Greater NY 2005 exhibition. His work has also been exhibited in the Studio Museum In Harlem’s 2005 “Frequency” exhibition and El Museo del Barrio’s fifth biennial: The (S) Files in 2007. He is a recipient of both the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptor’s Grant. In 2012 he received a The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) annual Artist Fellowship in Painting. His work is included in several notable collections including the Studio Museum In Harlem, El Museo Del Barrio and Princeton University Art Museum. His work has been reviewed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Yorker and the New York Times. Mr. Villalongo was appointed lecturer in painting/printmaking at Yale University in 2010.
This exhibition was organized by the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. A special thank you to William Villalongo; Susan Inglett Gallery, New York, NY; and the Artist Pension Trust Institute (APT), Brooklyn, NY.