Fred Wilson (b. 1954, Bronx, New York) challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display with his work. By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives. Since his groundbreaking and historically significant exhibition Mining the Museum (1992) at the Maryland Historical Society, Wilson has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, including the retrospective Objects and Installations 1979-2000, which was organized by the Center for Art and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and traveled to Saratoga Springs, Berkeley, Houston, Andover, and Santa Monica, before closing at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Wilson has since been the subject of many monographic presentations, including So Much Trouble in the World—Believe It or Not! at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (2005); Works 2001–2011 at the Cleveland Museum of Art (2012); Local Color at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2013); Black to the Powers of Ten and Wildfire Test Pit at Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio (2016); and Fred Wilson at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, New York (2017). In 2003, Wilson represented the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale with the solo exhibition Speak of Me as I Am. His many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius” Grant (1999); the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2006); the Alain Locke Award from The Friends of African and African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts (2013); and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Howard University, Washington, D.C. (2017). He was honored by The Black Alumni of Pratt Institute during their 2017 Celebration of the Creative Spirit.
New York—Pace is pleased to present Fred Wilson: Sculptures, Paintings, and Installations: 2004-2014 on view from September 12 to October 18, 2014, at 534 West 25th Street. Since the beginning of his career, Wilson has created a diverse range of work that challenges assumptions of history, culture and race. Pace’s exhibition will feature works from the past ten years, including several that have never before been exhibited. A catalogue featuring an essay by Doro Globus, editor of Fred Wilson: A Critical Reader (Ridinghouse, London, 2011) will accompany the exhibition. The public is invited to attend an opening reception on Thursday, September 11, 6–8 PM.
As Doro Globus writes in the exhibition catalogue, “Wilson’s appropriation is wide reaching. Simultaneously working with decorative art and national symbols, he breaks down the supposed structures in place and offers up an alternative view of nearly everything he touches. He treats even the seemingly simplest of forms, a mirror or a flag, in the same manner as an entire museum collection; clearly showing the relevance and import of his work outside such institutions.”
The Mete of the Muse (2006) juxtaposes differing representations of race in two bronzes: one a black patinated Egyptian figure and the other a white painted classical European nude. While this work refers to recognizable motifs without known origin, Wilson’s Ota Benga (2008) depicts an actual person who suffered a life of unthinkable hardship and degradation in the early 1900s. When exploring the collection at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, Wilson discovered an old plaster bust of Ota Benga, a man from the then Belgian Congo who was put on display as a specimen of the pygmy at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. He later committed suicide at the age of twenty-three. Wilson memorializes the life of Ota Benga in bronze, tying a white silk scarf around the base of the bust. Though they have been exhibited widely throughout the U. S. and Europe, including at Wilson’s solo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2013, this is the first time The Mete of the Muse and Ota Benga will be shown in New York.
Pace’s exhibition will also feature Wilson’s complete flag series, which has never before been exhibited in its entirety. The artist strips color from flags of African and African diaspora countries, leaving only the graphic stripes, stars, crescents, and shields, applied in black acrylic paint directly on raw canvas. Selections from this series of works have previously been exhibited in London, Paris, San Francisco and Cleveland. Mimicking museum wall labels is a never before exhibited 2009 work consisting of 63 wooden plaques that describe the history and imagery of each flag.
Wilson also engages the flag to confront assumptions of American identity in Don’t (2010), superimposing various flags from the nation’s history, including the Gadsden, Confederate, and Black Liberation flags, on top of one another. Clearly visible are the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” from the Gadsen flag, the X from the Confederate flag, the horizontal band from the Black Liberation flag, and the stars and stripes from the American flag. Globus writes, “He brings together a cacophony of voices that is layered and confusing, pointing to the chaos inherent in trying to represent a whole people with a singular heroic flag.” Wilson’s newest work using flag images, Black All Stars (2014) and Black Birds (2014), isolate star and bird iconography from the flags of African and other “black identified” countries, rendering these symbols onto a canvas surface exactly where they would be positioned in their respective flags. In The People (2010), Wilson brings together 27 flags from African, African diaspora and South Pacific nations in a grid isolating the black imagery. He continues this in four never before seen vertical groupings of eight flags—M (2010)—which the artist intends to display in the corners of the gallery.
Wilson’s mirror and chandelier sculptures demonstrate the artist’s innovative use of black glass in a centuries-old Venetian tradition, simultaneously undermining assumptions of a homogenous European culture. This exhibition will include two new mirrors and two new chandeliers, named after lines from Shakespeare’s Venetian tragedy Othello. For Speak of Me As I Am, his solo exhibition at the U.S. pavilion in the 50th Venice Biennale, Wilson began working with glass artisans on the island of Murano creating sculptures rendered in black glass. Stretching ten feet across, Wilson’s mirror work titled Act V. Scene II – Exeunt Omnes, 2014, refers to the final stage direction in Othello, during which all characters exit, leaving only the empty expanse of stage. Oh! Monstruosa Culpa! (2014), a new chandelier, combines traditional elements from the style of the 18th century Ca’ Rezzonico with Italian mid-twentieth century motifs. Globus writes, “Wilson continues to appropriate and layer familiar forms, pushing them until they become common-place yet unrecognizable.”
Pace’s exhibition will include Cadence (2014) and Whether or Not (2014), two new works comprised of Wilson’s signature black glass drips. Drips evolved out of Wilson’s first experiments with glass more than ten years ago, during a residency at the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. Playing with the color and shape of glass, Wilson creates his most ambiguous and natural forms, possibly evoking tears, blood or oil. Globus writes, “the black glass has the added dimension of being reflective, allowing the viewer to see themselves within the sculptures and have their own readings of the work.” Combining flags with the black glass drips, Wilson’s new works Promise (2012) and Some Loss (2012) confront themes of diaspora and the material nature of blackness.
Fred Wilson (born 1954, the Bronx) has created work that encourages viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives and raises critical questions about the politics of erasure and exclusion. Wilson received his B.F.A. from the State University of New York, Purchase in 1976 and serves on the Board of Trustees at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Sculpture Center, and the American Academy in Rome. His many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grant (1999), among others.
Wilson’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide, including the critically acclaimed Mining the Museum: An Installation, sponsored by the Contemporary Museum at The Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore (1992-93). In 2003, Wilson was selected to represent the United States at the 50th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale with the solo exhibition Fred Wilson: Speak of Me As I Am. Other recent solo exhibitions include Fred Wilson, Objects and Installations 1979–2000, a retrospective organized by the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, which traveled to seven venues nationally from 2001–04, including Saratoga Springs, Berkeley, Houston, Andover, Los Angeles, Chicago and ending its run at the Studio Museum in Harlem; Life’s Link at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art in 2012; Fred Wilson: Works 2004–2011 at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2013; and Fred Wilson: Local Color, Studio Museum in Harlem in 2013.
Since his representation at Pace, numerous public collections have acquired works by the artist including the American Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Birmingham Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Brooklyn Museum; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College; the Des Moines Art Center; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Tate, London; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Montclair Art Museum; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Toledo Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
This exhibition is Fred Wilson’s third at the gallery and marks ten years since the artist joined Pace.
For more information about Fred Wilson please contact Madeline Lieberberg at 212.421.3292 / firstname.lastname@example.org. For general inquiries, please email email@example.com; for reproduction requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014. Pace Gallery. Paperback
88 pages: 47 color illustrations; 11 ½ x 9 ¼ inches