Internationally acclaimed artist Fred Wilson will install two large glass chandelier sculptures created in collaboration with the Murano glass company in Venice inside the Viking Union this week.
Wilson is renowned for his interdisciplinary practice that challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display. By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives.
Wilson, born in the Bronx, is scheduled to fly from his home in New York to identify the exact location of where the chandeliers will be suspended in the Viking Union Lobby on Nov. 12. Wilson received photographs, floor plans and elevations of the space; the connection to the Multicultural Center is important in the siting.
In addition to identifying the exact location of the chandeliers, Wilson will give a speech during his campus visit on Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. in the Old Main Theater.
Wilson’s two sculptures are modeled on traditional Venetian and Ottoman chandelier designs and explore the interconnection of cultures through trade routes and imperialism, exploitation, and oppression.
“My chandeliers are sculptures that speak of a historical moment in a culture that is long gone; they elicit a nostalgic desire to regain that moment,” Wilson said in a statement. “They also reveal my desire to recast the memory of that era to include those like me, whose ancestors were perceived to not be a part of that moment in time, and thus not allowed to call that age, or that culture, their own.”
“The Way the Moon’s in Love with the Dark” (2017) made of Murano glass, clear brown glass, brass, steel, and light bulbs offers quite a difference visual experience than the white and clear glass of “A Moth of Peace” (2018), made of Murano glass and light bulbs.
“Simply, I wanted the chandeliers to embody the complex relationship between the Venetian Empire and the Ottoman Empire- and the Africans swept up into both their histories,” Wilson said. “These two works, while very different, are tied by their connection to history, to poetry, to identity, to beauty.”
Wilson’s work can be found in many public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Modern in London; the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant (1999); and the Ford Foundation's The Art of Change Award (2017-18). He represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and the Cairo International Biennale in 2017; the Alain Locke Award from the Friends of African and African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts (2013); and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Howard University, Washington, DC (2017). He is a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Academy in Rome.
In Honor of Virginia Wright
The artworks were acquired to commemorate Washington arts patron Virginia “Jinny” Wright.
The Wright family provided significant funding to honor Jinny Wright's legacy at Western. The late art collector and philanthropist made significant contributions to establish and expand the campus sculpture collection. In addition to the Wright family’s donation, Fred Wilson’s pieces are funded by the State Art in Public Places program.
Western in particular became home to several of Wright’s most important projects, including Richard Serra’s “Wright’s Triangle” named for the benefactor. The Virginia Wright Fund purchased five and partially paid for two other sculptures on campus. Six more of the works were donated directly from the Wrights’ private collection.
“The Way the Moon’s in Love with the Dark” and “A Moth of Peace” were selected by a committee comprised of national curators, Western students, staff, and faculty.
The committee to select Wilson’s work included Wendy Chang, Director of the rennie collection; Monique Kerman, Associate Professor of Art History at Western; Kelly Kivland, Associate Curator of the Dia Art Foundation; Ashly McBride, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art at Western (class of 2020); Bing Wright, photographer, and son of Virginia Wright; and Hafþór Yngvason, Director of the Western Gallery. Additional assistance was provided by Rick Benner, Western’s University Architect and Director of Facilities Development and Capital Planning; and Mike Sweney, the program manager of the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places.