‘Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes’ Reinterprets the Harlem Renaissance and American Modernism

The exhibit 'Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes' opens September 11 at UConn's Contemporary Art Galleries. Image: WILLIAM VILLALONGO re: History--Affinities (Bamileke, Pende, Stella, Jensen), 2015. Paper (periodicals) collage on paper. 18 x 23 in. collage. Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC.

Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes, an exhibit featuring the work of Brooklyn, NY artist William Villalongo, opens at UConn’s Contemporary Art Galleries on September 11. The artwork weaves the artist’s aesthetic and social interests together with aspects of Pablo Picasso and Aaron Douglas’s visual vocabulary. Villalongo’s paintings, collage works and prints draw upon the distinct illustrative style and political forcefulness employed by Douglas, a celebrated Harlem Renaissance artist. Also evident is the artist’s creative contextualization and reinterpretation of these Modernist Era Masters’ Formalist experiments, their love of African Art and use of black iconography. Villalongo’s art likewise references Picasso’s sexually charged Bather canvases and his once notorious painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, from 1907.

The curatorial centerpiece of Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes, is Villalongo’s stunning, wall-size projection of his 2012 film, Water Root. The film’s imagery that includes, masks, paintings, paintings being painted and frolicking Nymphs, binds the show’s selected artworks together. Included in the exhibition are a selection of books and periodicals illustrated by Douglas, providing art historical context to the scope of Black representation. By combining past and present work, Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes, projects a more nuanced future.

“Between Pablo Picasso and Aaron Douglas is the story of American Modernism and the essential, underrepresented African-American contribution to that history. For both artists, African masks and sculpture was key to unlocking the metaphysics of space. In Douglas’ hands this bore out a new Afrocentric aesthetic proving consequential to how emancipated black folks would begin to imagine themselves.”
~ William Villalongo, 2017

The Contemporary Art Galleries exhibition, Outside My Name or Through Other Eyes, is being presented in tandem with William Villalongo’s 2018 Artist Residency with Counterproof Press, the UConn School of Fine Arts’ printmaking collaborative.

William Villalongo lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He was born in 1975 in Hollywood, FL and raised in the town of Bridgeton, NJ. Villalongo is the recipient of the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptor’s Grant. His work is included in several notable collections including the Studio Museum In Harlem, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and Princeton University Art Museum, El Museo del Barrio and Denver Art Museum. His work has been reviewed in Art In America, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Villalongo is represented by Susan Inglett Gallery, New York and is an Assistant Professor at The Cooper Union School of Art. The artist navigates the politics of historical erasure directing his work towards a reassessment of Western, American and African Art histories. Working out of the notion of Blackness as a verb he reframes familiar images, events, and themes in our cultural landscape. He explores dualities such as male/female, visibility/ invisibility, humanity/nature incorporating appropriations from ancient myth to contemporary politics. This vast time frame narrates a conversation between images by which current existential concerns of representation are made more visible. Villalongo’s figures are held somewhere between magic and the factualness of being in a body, desire and discord. The surface and materiality of the work breaks between flatness and dimensionality, making the presence of the object an important measure for understanding it. Seeing and recognition become critical metaphors for the artist in framing his subjects.

Exhibit on View: Sept 11 – Oct 12, 2017
Artist Talk & Reception: Sept 11 @ 5pm – 6:30pm