William Wilson: The Black Ocean

William Wilson: The Black Ocean

Monday, April 5, 2010 to Friday, April 30, 2010

The Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery in the Department of Textiles, Clothing & Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will host the exhibition “The Black Ocean: Europe - Africa - America” featuring appliquéd banner narratives documenting the complicated history of the infamous “triangle trade,” created by French artist William Wilson. The Paris-based multi-media artist will be on campus from April 7 through 15, and will present a free public talk in the Home Economics building, room 11, on Sunday, April 11 at 2:00 p.m., preceding a gallery reception in his honor. All members of the UNL and Nebraska communities are invited.

"The Black Ocean: Europe-Africa-America" is Wilson's homage to his ancestors and his reflection on humanity and its capacity for both great achievement and nobility, and the basest horror and depravity. A painter, printmaker, sculptor, author and illustrator, Wilson recently journeyed to West Africa where, over a period of nearly two years, he worked with artisans in Abomey, Benin to create a series of eighteen appliqué fabric panels interpreting the historical narratives of the peoples of West Africa and of the traffic in human cargo that crossed oceans and generations. These powerful textiles bear witness to the richness of African culture and symbolism and the complex histories that interweave in reconstructing the African diaspora.

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In this collection of narrative-laden works, William Wilson has attempted to represent the concepts and aphorisms that aim to pass on the philosophy, ethics and belief systems at the root of Akan civilization and, more widely, of all human society. Wilson sought to locate himself intellectually and spiritually in relation to his European and African roots, to reconcile this divergent and complicated heritage, and to come to terms with the historical realities of African involvement in the slave trade, in its associated oral narratives, still being explored today, and in the broader implications of this history for all his fellow "travelers". "But this traveler is also you, readers and viewers," Wilson writes in the text accompanying the exhibition. "I invite you to explore this Black Ocean, tracing back a past that is far from concluded, since it holds the keys to understanding the present."

William Wilson was born in Paris in 1952. His mother was French and his father from Togo, Africa. At university in Paris he studied philosophy and ethnology and fell into painting informally, deciding then to pursue a career as a self-taught artist. He has been awarded numerous prizes and residencies, including a Villa Medici Prize that allowed him to travel in the US for a year, a residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY, and a La Napoule Art Foundation artist residency in southern France. In 1998 he collaborated with production teams for Louis Vuitton on the design and printing of a series of silk scarves. He has done theatrical work with dance troupes in France, has published several illustrated books for children, including “The Crocodile’s Proverbs” published by Gallimard in 2003. A fully illustrated book published in France by Gallimard-Jeunesse documents the project. Wilson’s work is represented by Galerie Philippe Lawson in Paris.

The exhibition is supported in part by funding provided by the Nebraska Arts Council, the Cooper Foundation, the Lincoln Arts Council, the Friends of the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, and UNL’s Departments of Textiles, Clothing & Design and Modern Languages. Additional support facilitating the artist’s interface with Lincoln Public Schools teachers and students is provided by Arts Are Basic.

The following link leads to more information about the project at William Wilson's dual language website:http://www.williamwilson.fr/ww/index.php/L-ocean-noir/