Benjamin Wigfall & Communications Village

Curated by Drew Thompson in consultation with Sarah Eckhardt of the VMFA

September 10 – December 11, 2022
Morgan Anderson Gallery, Howard Greenberg Family Gallery, and Sara Bedrick Gallery

Ben Wigfall, 1993, by Nancy Donskoj

 

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This exhibition provides the first retrospective of Benjamin Wigfall’s art, from his early career in Virginia in the 1950s to his founding of Communications Village, a community art space in Kingston, New York, in the 1970s.

 
Defining himself as primarily an abstract artist, Wigfall took inspiration from ordinary things around him. His belief that daily activities could function as powerful “communicative and aesthetic expressions” served as the foundation for Communications Village, where he sought “a new and contemporary relationship between artists and community.” 

 Benjamin Wigfall, Things My Father Told Me, Tall Man II, 1971, courtesy the Estate of Benjamin Wigfall (Photo: Travis Fullerton/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

Wigfall’s upbringing and education in Richmond and Hampton, Virginia, deeply informed his decision to address the inequities of access to art education. While a professor at the State University of New York, New Paltz, he intentionally established his studio in a close-knit Black neighborhood in nearby Kingston that reminded him of his childhood community in Richmond’s Church Hill. There, he opened his studio to nearby youth. His practice as a printmaker quickly merged with his philosophy as an arts educator, and Communications Village became a place for both art making and mentoring.


Ben Wigfall with young people from Communications Village, circa 1976. (L–R): Teressa Thomas-Washington, Raymond Gaye, Ben Wigfall, Robert Easter, Donnie Timbrouk, Dina Washington, and Larry Carpenter. By Pat Jow Kagemoto

 

Dedicated to bringing “outstanding Black artists” to Kingston, Wigfall also saw Communications Village as a unique space where leading African American artists of the era could engage with the local community while experimenting with printmaking as an art form. Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village will trace Wigfall’s development as an artist, treating Communications Village as a major conceptual artwork within his larger body of paintings, assemblages, and prints. The artists whom Wigfall invited to Communications Village were vital to his vision, thus the exhibition will also feature major works by Benny Andrews, Betty Blayton, Melvin Edwards, Charles Gaines, and Mavis Pusey, among others. A major scholarly publication will accompany the exhibition.

Benjamin Wigfall, Untitled, ca. 1970-72, courtesy the Estate of Benjamin Wigfall, (Photo: Travis Fullerton/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)


Benjamin Wigfall & Communications Village
is organized by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.