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Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations: 1979-2000


The Studio Museum in Harlem proudly presents Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations: 1979-2000, an exhibition that explores the artist's sustained aesthetic inquiry into the relationship between art and the museum. Organized by Maurice Berger, Senior Fellow of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New School of Social Research and Curator of Fine Arts Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Objects and Installations consists of more than 100 objects, each configured to re-create sections of Wilson's original installations. This traveling exhibition originated at the Fine Arts Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and will be on view at the Studio Museum through July 4, 2004, before traveling to the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL.  

In his "mock" museum installations, Wilson places provocative and beautifully rendered objects that explore how the museum consciously or unconsciously perpetuates prejudice.  In these installations, the museum itself functions as the artistic medium -- from the use of meticulously fabricated objects to the careful selection of wall colors, lighting, display cases and even wall labels. Sometimes Wilson reconfigures and supplements the collection of an actual museum -- as in his landmark installation, Mining the Museum , for the Maryland Historical Society in 1992.  Other times, he creates gallery installations that imitate the look and sensibility of a museum.  Wilson's aesthetic commentaries reach across a wide historical expanse -- from Egyptian and classical sculpture to African-American memorabilia to 'primitivism'.

"All of Wilson's objects and installations animate history in ways that give it new meaning and relevance," says Maurice Berger.  "In the end, Wilson is neither the enemy of the museum, nor its detractor.  He is, instead, its brilliant allegorist, building memorials to its lost history that are, at the same time, ciphers of the revolutions and reassessments taking place within its walls."

"My work with museums is a critique on many different levels -- a critique of traditional subject matter, of the notion of exhibition, of the museum as an institution, and by extension, of the society in which the museum exists.  So for me, all of those issues are embedded in each project.  I'm not interested in blaming any particular curator or museum professional.  The mistakes made by individuals in the past or present are part of broader cultural and institutional biases.  My positive and negative life experiences around race and culture have helped me see these biases but have also tempered the need to blame.  The museum is a microcosm of the society to which it belongs, and it is impossible to see cultural biases if you are deeply embedded in a culture.  So I don't treat people the way I would not like to be treated, as we all have blind spots.  I don't have much tolerance for those who, when confronted with the facts, still prefer to be in denial.  I think my work only upsets those folks.  The rest of us, I think, tend to appreciate learning something new about ourselves and the world, even if it is difficult at first."

                                         -   Fred Wilson in conversation with Maurice Berger


About Fred Wilson

Born in 1954 in Bronx, NY, Fred Wilson has created site-specific installations in collaboration with numerous museums and cultural institutions throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  He has been the recipient of major awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, American Association of Museums, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 1999, he was awarded a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


About The Studio Museum in Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem is a contemporary art museum that focuses on the work of artists of African descent locally, nationally and globally, as well as work that has been inspired and influenced by African-American culture, through its exhibitions, Artists-in-Residence program, education and public programming, permanent collection, archival and research facilities. The Studio Museum in Harlem is committed to serving as a unique resource in its local community and in national and international arenas by making art works and exhibitions concrete and personal for each viewer and providing a context within which to address the contemporary and historical issues presented through art created by artists of African descent.  

Since opening in a rented loft at Fifth Avenue and 125 th Street in 1968, The Studio Museum has earned recognition for its catalytic role in promoting the works of artists of African descent. The Museum's Artists-In-Residence program has supported over 90 graduates who have gone on to establish highly regarded careers. A wide variety of Education and Public Programs have brought the African American experience alive for the public by means of lectures, dialogues, panel discussions, and performances, as well as interpretive programs both on-site and off-site for students and teachers. The Exhibitions program has also expanded the scope of art historical literature through the production of scholarly catalogues, brochures and pamphlets.

The Studio Museum's Permanent Collection includes over 1,600 paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, pastels, prints, photographs, mixed media works, and installations. It is comprised of works created by artists during their residency, as well as pieces given to the Museum to create an art historical framework for artists of African descent. Featured in the collection are Terry Adkins, Romare Bearden, Skunder Boghossian, Robert Colescott, Melvin Edwards, Richard Hunt, Hector Hyppolite, Serge Jolimeau, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Philome Obin, Betye Saar, Nari Ward, and Hale Woodruff among others. The Museum also is the custodian of an extensive archive of the work of photographer James VanDerZee, the quintessential chronicler of the Harlem community from 1906 to 1984.  


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