Color photograph of William Villalongo in 3/4 profile, indoors with an African mask on the mantle behind him

William Villalongo

Jules Guerin/Harold M. English Rome Prize
September 6, 2021–July 22, 2022
Associate Professor, School of Art, Cooper Union
Project title
In Search of Black Atlantis
Project description

In Rome, I plan to continue my research among sources I’ve been engaging with through reproductions. My current projects would benefit from observational drawing and photography of architectural friezes found in the city including motifs from Roman mythology and the decorative grotesque, both so prominent in Rome’s narrative. A focal point for me would be Bernini’s Fontana del Moro, in which the grotesque and the myth of Triton are held within a Black subject. The artist added a Moor Triton figure to the fountain in 1653 as demands for the transatlantic slave trade became more aggressive in the Americas. Bernini could not have predicted that the dark journey of the Middle Passage with so many Black lives lost at sea would find its way into African American folklore through the Black Atlantis. Yet, the relationships between myth and migration are undeniably linked. The artist’s sculptures from Fontana del Moro will be used as image and metaphor in new cut-paper and collage works.