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Announcement
March 30, 2017

Fred Wilson

Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, SUNY

Fred Wilson, Snuff, 2003. Painted wood, plastic hoses, fire extinguishers and metal clamps, 69 x 44 x 44 inches. © Fred Wilson. Courtesy Pace Gallery.

Conceptual artist Fred Wilson is primarily known for rearranging art and artifacts in museum collections to reveal the difficult topics in our culture and society that are frequently overlooked. A 1999 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur (genius) Grant Award winner, Wilson gained critical acclaim in the early 1990s with the seminal exhibition Mining the Museum, in which he placed a whipping post in a gallery and encircled it with four ornate chairs—all from the permanent collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Mining the Museum

Now, Wilson, who earned his BFA with Purchase College’s first graduating class in 1976, is turning his eyes to his own alma mater. His show at the Neuberger Museum of Art, located on the Purchase campus, includes a survey of the artist’s work from 1995 to the present, featuring 76 pieces of his studio work. The exhibition, on view from March 19 to July 30, 2017, includes three new works by Wilson that have not been exhibited publicly before, and a site-specific installation that re-contextualizes 39 works from the Museum’s and the College’s collections to create an “artistic intervention” that subtly explores hidden agendas and how power is perpetuated by society’s institutions. The installation includes a display of a couple of Wilson’s own “collection projects,” put together over the artist’s career. This is the first time Wilson has exhibited together his studio work, a museum intervention, and collection projects within a museum context.

Jacqueline Shilkoff, Neuberger Museum Curator of New Media/Director of Digital Initiatives, says, “Wilson’s conceptual practice and his studio practice form a continuum. He researches process and context—how and why works of art are made and the sociopolitical environment in which they are interpreted. He investigates the dynamic between the self and society, and how societies in power dominate the historical narrative.”

Wilson’s desire to reassess social and historical narratives and examine the politics of erasure and exclusion is apparent throughout his entire body of work featured in the survey, dating from the earliest work on view, Old Salem: A Family of Strangers (1995). The piece features 20 color photographs that document a collection of dolls, many of them depicting minorities, found in storage at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, NC. “This was a box of dolls that were gifted to the museum but would never be put on display. They were misfits,” Wilson says. “I wanted to give these characters a voice by making portraits of them. I saw their histories etched on their faces—their fear, their desires, their dignity.”

Old Salem: A Family of Strangers

The Museum survey also includes three new works by Wilson: Milieu, Slither, and Sparse Spill (all from 2017). Made of black glass by Seattle glassblowers under Wilson’s direction, these oversized “glass drips” reflect the artist’s musings on shape and color and the various notions of what they can mean.

Milieu, SlitherSparse Spill

Wilson spent the past several months doing extensive research into the Museum’s collection and archives and creating an “artistic intervention” in its second floor exhibition space. Utilizing works owned by the museum—ranging from a wooden Ghana fertility figure to paintings by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Max Weber and Mark Rothko—Wilson has manipulated them into a series of different environments.

Fred Wilson is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY. Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by Morgan Stanley and by ArtsWestchester with support from the Westchester County Government. Additional support has been provided by O. Anthony Maddalena, and Helen Stambler Neuberger and Jim Neuberger. Support is also provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and the Purchase College Foundation.

Fred Wilson
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