OREANDA-NEWS. September 02, 2016.  Works by contemporary British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, who is best known for his explorations of the legacies of colonialism thorugh sculpture, installations, film, and photography, will be on display this fall at the Yale Center for British Art.

The display, on view Sept. 1 through Dec. 11, will focus on Shonibares interest in the British historical figure Admiral Lord Nelson, (1758-1805), whom he uses as an emblem of Britains imperial history.

An important feature of Shonibares work is his consistent use of colorful, wax-printed cotton fabrics, which are associated with Africa but originated in Indonesia and Holland. A product of global trade and imperial markets, the fabric captures the themes at the heart of Shonibares work.

The centers presentation in its second-floor galleries will include the original scale model of Nelsons Ship in a Bottle, unveiled in 2010 in Trafalgar Square, which Shonibare produced for his commission for Britains Fourth Plinth series. Since 1999, the Fourth Plinth has provided a space dedicated to contemporary art commissions, and Shonibares was the first commission in the series granted to a black artist. It was also the first to engage directly with the history of the square, which commemorates Britains naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Captured within a gigantic glass bottle, Nelsons Ship in a Bottle is a representation of HMS Victory, Nelsons famous flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, the campaign in which the admiral heroically lost his life. Shonibares model ship accurately replicates HMS Victory, but its 37 sails are made from his signature Dutch wax fabrics. Nelsons Ship in a Bottlemarked the beginning of Shonibares exploration of Nelsons image and reputation beyond his death.

In addition to the model of this commission, the center will present a number of related works, including a screening of Shonibares Addio del Passato (2011). The film presents the final aria from Verdis La Traviata, reimagined as a performance sung by Nelsons estranged wife, Fanny, played by the black British opera singer Nadine Benjamine.

The costumes worn by Fanny and Nelson in the film will be displayed in glass cabinets, alongside three framed digital chromogenic prints, drawn from Shonibares series Fake Death Pictures(2011). The photographs extend Shonibares exploration of imperial heroism through the figure of Nelson. Each is based on paintings depicting deaths and suicides, including Edouard Manets The Suicide(between 1877 and 1881), and each thereby depicts a different death scenario for Nelson. One of the photographs is based on Henry Walliss famous painting The Death of Chatterton(1856), an icon of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Shonibares restaging of Chatterton recreates the painting in all its details but replaces the body of the young poet with that of Nelson, dressed in a naval uniform cut from patterned Dutch wax-printed cotton. Conflating the romanticized dramatization of the young poets suicide with Nelsons heroic self-sacrifice, Shonibare seeks to challenge and complicate narratives of imperial history, heroism, and death through art historical tropes. The centers highly finished oil-on-panel study of The Death of Chattertonwill be on view as part of the collection display in the second-floor galleries.

Shonibares work forges resonant contemporary connections to historic works in the centers collection. The commemoration of Trafalgar and Nelsons apotheosis were major themes in British art, which visitors can explore in the galleries. In addition, the display will coincide with the centers exhibition Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Paintings (on view Sept. 15-Dec. 4), which for the first time offers a sustained examination of the tradition of marine painting responding to and shaping Britains rise to prominence as a maritime and imperial power during the 18th century.

The Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.