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William Villalongo: Myths and Migrations

May 3, 2024 – August 11, 2024

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


William Villalongo: Myths and Migrations showcases 33 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.

About the Artist

William Villalongo is an assistant professor at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York. In 2016, he co-curated Black Pulp!, a traveling exhibition of a collection of printed media produced by Black publishers, Black artists, and non-Black artists, with fellow artist Mark Thomas Gibson. Villalongo is a 2021 recipient of the Rome Prize in the visual arts, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Denver Art Museum; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C; the Princeton University Art Museum;  the Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC; and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others. 

The artist received his B.F.A. from The Cooper Union School of Art, NYC, and his M.F.A. from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia. 

Programming & Events

Exhibition Celebration
Saturday, May 4, 2024 • 5–8 PM

Exhibition Tour by Melanie Herzog
Saturday, May 18, 2024 • 2 PM



Exhibition Support

Major Sponsorship for William Villalongo: Myths and Migrations is generously provided by Mary Ellyn and Joe Sensenbrenner in memory of Stephen Fleischman. Additional support is provided in the memory of Stephen Fleischman by Dynee Balleza and Barney Sheafor, Dan and Natalie Erdman, Darcy Kind and Marc Vitale, Kathryn Howarth Ryan, and Jim and Jessica Yehle.