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Installation view, Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet, Mar 23 – Apr 27, 2018, Pace Gallery, London © Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson

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b. 1954, Bronx, New York

Fred Wilson is renowned for his interdisciplinary practice that challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display.By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives.

Wilson’s early work was directed at marginalized histories, exploring how models of categorization, collecting, and display exemplify fraught ideologies and power relations inscribed into the fabric of institutions. His groundbreaking and historically significant exhibition Mining the Museum (1992) at the Maryland Historical Society, radically altered the landscape of museum exhibition narratives. As interventions, or “mining,” of the museum’s archive, Wilson re-presented its materials to make visible hidden structures built into the museum system, and American Society as a whole.

At the onset of the twenty-first century, Wilson began to place more focus on his object-based work. In collaboration with the prominent American glass blower Dante Marioni, he began producing his first glass artworks in 2001—ambiguous black-colored forms that assert a multifaceted political undercurrent. “The color black represents African American people because it’s been placed on us as a representation,” Wilson says. “Of course, the color black—the absence of light—really has nothing to do with African Americans. But there’s a whole other layer of meaning.”

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Fred Wilson, No Way But This, 2013, Murano glass and light bulbs, 70-1/16" x 68-1/2" x 68-1/2" (178 cm x 174 cm x 174 cm) © Fred Wilson

Wilson continued his exploration of glass with Speak of Me As I Am, his exhibition for the United States pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Much of this work developed from Wilson’s observation that numerous Venetian history paintings contained black figures, though he had difficulty locating them in written histories. Wilson began a relationship with the Murano glass company, located on the Venetian island of the same name, and created chandeliers and mirrors in a traditional Venetian style embellished with black glass.

Fred Wilson’s body of work encompasses sculpture, painting, photography, collage, printmaking, and installation. He is internationally lauded for his conceptual practice that subverts perception, revealing the undercurrents of historical discourse, ownership, and privilege normalized by institutional practices.

I trust the visual to communicate my ideas. I try to unlock the meaning of objects by juxtaposing and eliciting a conversation between them that creates an unexpected, but essential, thought.

Fred Wilson

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Fred Wilson, Untitled (Zadib, Sokoto, Tokolor, Samori, Veneto, Zanzibar, Dhaka, Macao), 2011, illuminated plastic globe, acrylic paint, tassels, steel armature, plaster figure, and powder coated aluminum plate, 28" x 20" x 20" (71.1 cm x 50.8 cm x 50.8 cm) © Fred Wilson