Profile: William Villalongo (1975-)

William Villalongo is an American artist working in painting, printmaking, sculpture, and installation art. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Villalongo is an assistant professor at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York.

Early life and education

Villalongo was born in Hollywood, Florida, to a Puerto Rican father and African-American mother. His parents separated when he was a young child and he was raised in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Villalongo received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1999. He furthered his education by receiving his Masters of Fine Art from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 2001.

Influences

Villallongo’s work typically focuses on the politics of historical erasure, with a particular focus on the artistic reassessment of Western, American, and African Art histories. The artist states that his intention toward these reassessments evolves in part from the West’s histories of “taking African art objects and placing them on the side of the sofa to decorate, although that is not their purpose. We are obsessed with fitting a narrative, a story.

His work engages with the black body, examining the influence of socialization, history, dress and speech. Commenting on his reexamination of the power dynamics of history and representation, Villalongo has posited, “[The relationship is] problematic and interesting, and I wanted to think about how to use it and tell a story.”In many of the artist’s portraits, bodies emerge from “a tumult of white negative space cut out of black velour paper,” in ways that evoke leaves, branches, feathers, or slashes.

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