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Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000
January 22 through March 30, 2003
First mid-career survey by internationally acclaimed artist Fred Wilson, who will represent the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale.
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is proud to present Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979–2000, the first mid-career survey of internationally acclaimed artist Fred Wilson. The exhibition, which includes more than 20 works, will be on view at BAM/PFA from January 22 through March 30, 2003. Wilson's installations are thoughtful, often humorous, and consistently provocative explorations of museum practice and the act of collecting. Using the museum itself as his medium, Wilson creates arrangements of objects that reveal the ways in which, consciously or otherwise, museums perpetuate unconscious social, racial, and cultural biases.
Wilson will represent the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale, which opens to the public on June 14, 2003. This prestigious appointment, made in October 2002, and his receipt of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999, reflects Wilson's stature as one of the leading artists and cultural critics of his generation.
In conjunction with the mid-career survey exhibition, Wilson will create a new installation using selected works from the collections of BAM/PFA and UC Berkeley's Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and BAM/PFA collections. Titled Aftermath, this installation will be the culmination of a project Wilson is undertaking as an artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley this fall, in which time he is working with students from the departments of anthropology and art history.
Wilson's installations and art works draw a direct line between the anthropological, historical, or artistic framework in which museum objects are displayed, and the social context from which the objects themselves come. His works remind the viewer that there are, in fact, many stories contained within any single object, and not just the one story described in the wall label or museum catalogue. In one installation, Metalwork 1793–1880, which was part of the exhibition "Mining the Museum" at the Baltimore Historical Society in 1992, the artist included a pair of slave shackles in a display of ornate colonial silverware—a reminder to the audience that the original owners of the elegant goblets and tea service were also owners of slaves.
Installations like this expose the one-directional view typical of traditional museum practice—from colonizer to colonized, settler to native, white to black—and remind us that there are many different perspectives and viewpoints other that those contained in museum wall text and labels.
Wilson's installations closely mimic the style and appearance of displays typically found at museums both in the U.S. and internationally. His careful attention to details, including wall colors, lighting, display cases, and labels, adds to the effectiveness with which Wilson's installations mimic actual museum exhibits. Only on closer inspection does the viewer realize that what they are looking at is a parody laden with both historical and contemporary references. In Friendly Natives (1991), for example, a skeleton displayed in a glass case as if at a museum of natural history, is labeled "Someone's Sister."
Wilson's commentaries encompass a wide range of museological and art historical subject matter—from Egyptian and classical Greek and Roman sculpture to African-American memorabilia and the primativist painting of Picasso. This important exhibition, which incorporates more than 100 objects ranging from photographs to reproductions of pre-Columbian ceramic artifacts, provides a rare opportunity to reconsider the unspoken ideologies that guide the art of museum display and collection.
Fred Wilson was born and lives in New York City. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York, College at Purchase. His early work includes public art projects in the form of site-specific sculpture and photography inspired by archeological and anthropological methods. He continues to have an interest in these subjects, critiquing these fields of study as well as the role of the museum as a public institution. Most recently he has created more personal sculptures and installations in glass and ceramic that deal with loss, sadness, fear, and safety.
Wednesday, January 22, 12 noon
Galleries 2, 3, & 4
This informal program allows visitors to view Wilson's work through the artist's own eyes and to engage in conversation with him.
The Silent Message of the Museum
Sunday, January 26, 3 p.m.
Wilson will present a slide-illustrated lecture about a range of his provocative and subversive works, and about his new collections-based installation at BAM/PFA. Wilson, the recipient of a MacArthur grant, is an engaging speaker as well as a singularly thoughtful artist. His lecture promises to illuminate his career as well as his latest thinking.
Thursday, January 23, 12:15 p.m.
Sunday, February 9, 2 p.m.
Galleries 2, 3, & 4
What are the hidden histories, purposes, and discourses behind what museums display and how they display it? Sharon Corwin, faculty fellow in UC Berkeley's History of Art department, takes up these and other topics in the exhibition galleries.
Tours of the Fred Wilson exhibitions will be offered on most Thursdays at 12:15 and 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Call 510-642-0808 for details.
Sign-Language Interpreted Tour
Sunday, February 23, 1:30 p.m.
Galleries 2 & 3
An interpretive tour of Wilson's career retrospective, Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations 1979–2000 and Fred Wilson: Collections Revealed.