Magazine article Artforum International

Fred Wilson: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

Magazine article Artforum International

Fred Wilson: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

Article excerpt

OBERLIN, OHIO

Fred Wilson

ALLEN MEMORIAL ART MUSEUM, OBERLIN COLLEGE

Fred Wilson's exhibitions "Wildfire Test Pit" and "Black to the Powers of Ten," which have taken over two galleries of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, a venerated teaching collection at Oberlin College, are sagacious follow-ups to the artist's recent installation at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In the CMA's Glass Box Gallery, an architecturally scaled glass vitrine inserted into the museum's original Beaux Arts edifice, Wilson presented a spare installation of merely four works. Conversely, these exhibitions represent his largest combined project to date: an abundant gathering of the artist's museum interventions and studio work in a town recognized for its historic role in the struggle for social justice in antebellum America. In addition to being the end point of the Underground Railroad, Oberlin was an abolitionist stronghold where in 1853 residents rescued the escaped slave John Price from federal marshals, an act that set in motion efforts to challenge the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. What better site, then, to mount this demonstration of Wilson's continued investigations of race, power, and identity?

The Allen's recently restored King Sculpture Court is the site of Wilson's "Wildfire Test Pit," the latest of his museum interventions, which stages a symmetrical installation of figural artworks and replicas of classical sculptures drawn from the museum's collection, here occupying its jewel-box-like atrium. The replicas include plaster casts of works by Praxiteles, Verrocchio, and Donatello: They are placed alongside Richmond Barthe's red terra-cotta African Head, 1935; Nicholas Alden Brooks's trompe l'oeil painting Handbill of the Play at the Night of Lincoln's Assassination, 1893; original late-nineteenth- to early-twentieth-century pairs of Cheyenne and Sioux moccasins; and the wooden base of a fifth-century Buddha sculpture, all drawn from the museum's holdings. In the center of the gallery lies a bisected cast of an Italian funerary sculpture of a corpse. Into the supine figure Wilson has inserted a large wood carving, Nimba Dance Headdress with Carrying Yoke (Nimba) (also late nineteenth to early twentieth century). The carving's beaked mask is mounted atop a yoke that forms flat, hanging breasts articulated with prominent nipples, which would have attached it to a wearer's head and shoulders. The aggression of this forcible insertion is at odds with the eloquent and restrained adjacent interventions and the equivocal citations that grace the gallery's walls. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.