No Way But This

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    The Artist
    Pace Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Pace Gallery, Fred Wilson: Sculptures, Paintings and Installations 2004 - 2014, September 12 - October 18, 2014, p. 71 (another example exhibited)
    New York, Pace Gallery, Glass, June 27 - August 19, 2016 (another example exhibited)
    Ohio, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Fred Wilson: Black to the Powers of Ten, August 30, 2016 - June 12, 2017, pp. 78 and 82 (illustrated)
    Purchase, New York, Neuberger Museum of Art, Fred Wilson, March 19 - July 30, 2017 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Peter Erickson, "Concluding Othello: Contrasting Endings by Shakespeare and Fred Wilson," Shakespeare Bulletin 34, no. 2 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1954, Bronx, NY
    Lives and works in New York, NY

    1976 BFA, State University of New York, Purchase

    Selected honors: Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2003), MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" (1999)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Venice Biennale; Cleveland Museum of Art; Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
    Selected public collections: Tate Museum, London; The Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum; Long Museum, Shanghai; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    For over three decades, conceptual artist Fred Wilson has drawn our attention to objects and cultural symbols as he brilliantly deconstructs social and historical narratives regarding art, culture and race. Wilson is perhaps best known for his 1992 landmark exhibition Mining the Museum, in which he created provocative tableaux by selecting and arranging objects from the collection of the Maryland Historical Society to confront politics of erasure and exclusion. In tandem with his project of creating site-specific installations as a form of institutional critique, Wilson also uses pre-existing objects as a springboard for new work to explore the role of creating and shaping meaning. As the artist explains: “Objects have various lives and these lives are formed by the context that they’re in. Where they’re moved to can change their meaning… My goal is to tease out other ways of looking at and viewing the objects, and see what that elicits.”

    The chandelier No Way But This, 2013, is an iconic work that developed out of Wilson’s contribution to the 50th Venice Bienniale in 2003. Selected to represent the United States, Wilson’s exhibition Speak of Me as I Am presented site-specific work that examined both the participation and representations of Africans in early modern art and decorative objects, as well as contemporary race relations in Venice. His carved wooden “blackamoors” – black figurine sculptures in subservient poses often used as lampstands– made visible the incendiary nature of objects that are so common in Venice that few people even notice them. For another installation, he employed an acquaintance to pretend to be an African street vendor selling fake designer bags pointedly placed outside of the U.S. pavilion, with the bags in fact being Wilson’s own designs. The work attracted the attention of local police who dragged the vendor away.

    As Phoebe Hoban wrote in her review of the U.S. pavilion in New York Magazine, “Perhaps the most resonant work in the pavilion is its simplest: Wilson contracted the famed Murano glassmakers to create a traditional seventeenth-century chandelier in ebony-black glass. Hung in the entrance of the neoclassical pavilion, against yellow walls meant to evoke the gold-leaf chambers of St. Mark’s basilica, the chandelier could be a giant spider, or a black cloud of tears.” Wilson’s work with Murano glassmaking, a prestigious 500 year old tradition, was prompted by his research about Venice’s rarely discussed or even acknowledged yet substantial African population in 18th century and their participation in glassmaking. Fabricating works such as No Way But This from onyx Murano glass, a color never before used for decorative objects, opaque material ironically obscures light. Equally mournful and seductive, the chandelier sees Wilson use black both as a material and a subject – confronting us with themes of class privilege, tradition and race relations.


No Way But This

Murano glass and light bulbs
70 1/8 x 68 1/2 x 68 1/2 in. (178.1 x 174 x 174 cm.)
Executed in 2013, this work is number 1 from an edition of 6 plus 2 artist's proofs.

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New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019