“He seems deliberate in his thinking,” Villalongo said. “He’s doing his research, getting things that he seems to truly love and connect with.”
Villalongo’s Flex, in particular, is rooted in Black music, inspired by Brooklyn’s flex dancing community—also known as bone breaking—a style of dance rooted in dancehall music that features dancers contorting their limbs into seemingly impossible shapes. “When I saw that dancing, I said that’s it, this beautiful poetic metaphor about the types of contortions we have to make in society, in the world, really, within these bodies,” Villalongo said. “It’s both something that seems to be almost impossible but also profound when you see it happen. It’s like breakdancing, it’s like yoga…all of these things mixing. Black people do that profoundly, the mixture, the pastiche—turning all this stuff into something new.”
The inclusion of Brathwaite’s work in the collection is particularly notable; the artist was instrumental in connecting the burgeoning hip-hop community with the downtown art scene in the late 1970s and early ’80s, appearing as a guest on Glenn O’Brien’s public access show TV Party
and in the films Downtown 81
(2000) and Wild Style
(1983). Along with his contemporary
, Brathwaite helped legitimize spray can art in the fine art world, propping the back door open to the galleries for a thriving community of artists previously relegated to rooftops and train yards.