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Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000


The Addison Gallery of American Art presents Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000, organized by the Center for Art and Visual Culture, UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland. Curated by Maurice Berger, the exhibition is the first mid-career survey of this internationally recognized artist, recently chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. On view from September 2 - November 9, 2003, the exhibition includes nearly 20 installations and numerous small objects that showcase Wilson's fascination with museum practice as well as the issues of race and ethnicity.

Over the past fifteen years, Fred Wilson has produced a sustained and cogent inquiry into the complex relationship between the art object and the museum. His creative process consists of mock museum installations into which the artist places provocative and beautifully rendered objects, allowing him to explore the question of how the museum consciously or unconsciously perpetuates racist beliefs or behavior.

If social justice is Wilson's ultimate subject, the museum itself becomes his medium, from the use of meticulously fabricated objects to the careful selection of wall colors, lighting, display cases and even wall labels. Wilson's incisive aesthetic and social inquiry focuses not only on the social implications of the content within the anthropological, historical or artistic medium but also on the powerful, historically encoded belief systems inherent to the art of museum display. Sometimes the artist reconfigures and supplements the collection of an actual museum - as in his extraordinary installation, Mining the Museum, commissioned by the Maryland Historical Society in 1992. In that show, Wilson juxtaposed objects from the Society's permanent collection with fabricated objects and wall labels. The resulting juxtapositions spoke to a complex history of museological omission, manipulation and oversight: in Cabinet Making, for example, Wilson poignantly counters a series of elegantly crafted American late nineteenth century wooden chairs with a rarely exhibited wooden slave post.

In the end, Wilson's aesthetic commentaries reach across a wide museological and art historical expanse - from Egyptian and classical Greek and Roman sculpture to African-American memorabilia, to the primativist painting of Picasso and to the uniforms worn by the often black guards charged with the task of keeping American museums safe and secure.

Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000 is accompanied by a major catalogue and feature essays by exhibition curator Maurice Berger and Jennifer Gonzalez, professor of art history at the University of California, Santa Cruz . The catalogue is fully illustrated in black-and-white and color, and also contains an interview with Wilson, complete catalogue raisionné of his installations, a selected bibliography, list of exhibitions and checklist. Available for purchase at the Addison Gallery of American Art.


National Exhibition Tour

Following the premiere at the Fine Arts Gallery, Objects and Installations traveled to the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (October 26, 2002 - January 7, 2003); the Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California (January 22, 2003 - March 30, 2003); the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston , Houston, Texas (May 3, 2003 - July 27, 2003); the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts (September 2-November 9, 2003); and travels to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California (December 5, 2003 - February 8, 2004); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York (April 28, 2004 - July 4, 2004); and other locations to be determined.


The Curator

Maurice Berger is a senior fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics of the New School for Social Research and curator of the Fine Arts Gallery, UMBC. He has taught and lectured at such institutions as Hunter College, Yale University, the DIA Center for the Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. He has served as curator or has written catalogue essays for such institutions as the Guggenheim Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Grey Art Gallery and Jewish Museum. His articles have appeared in numerous journals and newspapers, including The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, the Village Voice, October and Afterimage. He is the author of three books: Labyrinths: Robert Morris, Minimalism, and the 1960s (Harper and Row, 1989), How Art Becomes History (HarperCollins, 1992); and White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999). White Lies was named a finalist for the Horace Mann Bond Award given by Harvard University for the best book of African American interest, and is currently being made into a documentary by PBS. Berger was editor of Modern Art and Society: A Social and Multicultural Reader (HarperCollins, 1994) and The Crisis of Criticism (The New Press, 1998), and co-editor of Constructing Masculinity (Routledge, 1995).


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