'Black Ocean,' artist William Wilson at Hillestad Textiles Gallery in April

Released on 03/31/2010, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Monday, Apr. 5, 2010, through Apr. 30, 2010

WHERE: Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, 2nd Floor, Home Economics Building, 35th Street north of East Campus Loop [map]

Lincoln, Neb., March 31st, 2010 —
William Wilson in his Paris studio
William Wilson in his Paris studio
"Ekpessosso," banner by William Wilson
"The End of the World," banner by William Wilson

"The Black Ocean: Europe-Africa-America," an exhibition of appliqued banner narratives created by French artist William Wilson that document the complicated history of the infamous "triangle trade," will be on display April 5-30 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery.

The Paris-based multi-media artist will be on the UNL campus April 7-15, and will present a free public talk at 2 p.m. April 11 in Room 11 Home Economics Building, 35th Street north of East Campus Loop [map]. A free, public reception in Wilson's honor will follow.

The exhibit and Wilson's visit are hosted by the Hillestad Gallery and the UNL Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design.

"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 18 applique 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. In this collection of narrative-laden works, 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 wrote 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."

Wilson was born in Paris in 1952. His mother is 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 United States for a year, a residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 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.

For more information, visit Wilson's Web site, www.williamwilson.fr/ww/index.php/L-ocean-noir.

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 and Design, and Modern Languages and Literatures. Additional support facilitating the artist's interface with Lincoln Public Schools teachers and students is provided by Arts Are Basic.

The Hillestad Gallery is part of the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences. The gallery is on the second floor of the Home Economics Building on East Campus, on 35th Street north of East Campus Loop [map]. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment. Admission is free. For more information, call (402) 472-6370 or visit http://textilegallery.unl.edu.

WRITER: Michael James