Describing himself as of “African, Native American, European and Amerindian” descent, Wilson was born in 1954 in the Bronx, NY. A conceptual artist, Wilson’s Wikipedia bio addresses his objective; “to examine, question, and deconstruct the traditional display of art and artifacts found in museums. With the use of new wall labels, sounds, lighting, and non-traditional pairings of objects, he leads viewers to recognize that changes in context create changes in meaning.” His work has been featured at, among others, the Venice Biennale (representing the United States), Studio Museum in Harlem, Maryland Historical Society, Neuberger Museum of Art (on view thru July 30, 2017), and Pace Gallery. An exhibition of his work is on view at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College (on view thru June 12, 2017.) He is a recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius Grant” and is a Whitney Museum Trustee.
The Mete of the Muse
After finding the originals these two sculptural figures I immediately bought them. Both were made of plaster, though I found one in an antique store and the other in a plaster sculpture studio which produced statuary and decorations for gardens and homes. They sat in my studio for a while, but soon I knew they needed to be together. They were opposites, but had similarities. Both were about the same size and both of females. To my mind they distinctly represented Africa and Europe, however their color and countenances were different, one to another. Placing them together heightened their differing "personalities". Finding the exact distance apart was the most important creative act I could do. It often is, in my work. The subtle relationship is created by objects' adjacencies. I can safely say, juxtaposition is the strongest component in my art. It flows through the artworks I produce, as well as my museum installations and interventions. For me, simple shifts in the relationship of objects can change meaning demonstrably. It often is so subtle it might not be noticed as the catalyst for meaning. I am thoroughly engaged and enthralled with this process. The word "Mete," of the title, is usually used as a verb. As a verb, I am using its archaic (and biblical) meaning: to measure. As a noun I am interested in the word meaning "boundary” and again in Old English "metan," which is related to the Dutch "meten" means "measure". For me, the precise distance between the figures perhaps reveals their personalities and dispositions. The fact that they represent two different parts of the globe could refer to their world view. These bronzes are the colors that the original plasters were when I found them. Retaining their original colors was important to me. It was completely fortuitous, as the figures' close proximity intrinsically and noticeably reveals contemporary meanings to the colors black and white.
© 2017 Fred Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery