Hiding in Plain Sight

Fred Wilson

b. 1954, Bronx, New York
Lives and works in New York

Fred Wilson’s Dark Dawn (2005) is comprised of twenty-three parts of blown and plated black glass that personify movement and liquidity. Wilson became engaged with the glass of Murano in 2001 and began working in black glass because of the symbolism embedded in the color black. The objects in Dark Dawn (2005) amplify and magnify the form of glass as a material that begins from liquid and never fully solidifies. The “black tears” in this work respond to the history of Blackness in America with each drop and recalling tears, blood, and bodily fluids forming a slick pool of blackness on the floor.

Fred Wilson, Dark Dawn, 2005, blown glass and plate glass, overall installed: 120" x 240" x 84" (304.8 cm x 609.6 cm x 213.4 cm)

The pitch-black surface of the installation offers a literal and symbolic reflective quality as pairs of eyes gaze back at the viewer. Wilson says, “I would like to think that objects have memories, and that we have memories about certain objects.” The arrangement of caricature-like eyes references the Blackface cartoons of the Jim Crow era when white supremacy and anti-blackness dominated every aspect of American life. The eyes on the drips look back on Black people being reduced to images of ink, tar, and oil in these cartoons.

Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson (b. 1954, Bronx, New York) challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display with his work. 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 Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Berkeley Art Museum, University of California; Blaffer Art Gallery, University of Houston; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; Santa Monica Museum of Art; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Chicago Cultural Center (2001–04). Wilson’s work is held in over forty public collections, including the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin; Baltimore Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Cleveland Museum of Art; Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; Denver Art Museum; Detroit Institute of Arts; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Jewish Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Seattle Art Museum; The Studio Museum in Harlem; Tate, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.