"Collectibles," Fred Wilson's exhibition of new sculptures and photographs at Metro Pictures December 2 through January 6, employs once commonly available ceramic figures of mammies, uncles, cooks and picaninnies as well as Southern belles and other comparable white characterizations. Wilson juxtaposes these figures in their varied forms as banks, salt and pepper shakers, bottle stops, etc., as a method of revealing the complexity of meaning in their mutely disturbing existence. This detritus of the banal evil of our culture reinvents itself in the transformation from souvenir to collectible, from unexamined racist attitudes to perverse nostalgia.
Wilson also presents two sets of color photographic portraits: "Old Salem: Family of Strangers," from an antique collection of small handmade figures and "Non-Blacks," which individualize and humanize the figures beyond their generic representation.
Fred Wilson lives and maintains a studio in New York City. However, much like 19th-century portrait painters, Wilson constantly travels from city to city for exhibitions, lectures and projects. Wilson has had one-person exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In these exhibitions, as in his groundbreaking installation "Mining the Museum" at the Maryland Historical Society, Wilson recontextualizes objects from the permanent collections to illustrate the way that art has been used to validate prevailing racial and cultural stereotypes.
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