Fred Wilson: Were Ancient Egyptians Black, White or Brown? Discuss.

Brooklyn, NEW YORK—Fred Wilson uses art objects to raise controversial issues. Here he paints five identical, found heads labeled “Nefert-ite” a range of flesh tones. The installation asks, but does not answer, questions about ancient Egyptian identity, leaving it to viewers to discuss and debate.

The exhibit copy quotes Wilson on his approach: “I use beauty as a way of helping people to receive difficult or upsetting ideas. The topical issues are merely a vehicle for making one aware of one’s own perceptual shift—which is the real thrill.”

Born in the Bronx, Wilson lives and works in New York. He creates in a range of mediums and represented the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale.

Wilson was commissioned for a public art project in Indianapolis, Ind., that was recently canceled. because the community wasn’t comfortable the image of a freed slave serving as an inspirational symbol.

In this video produced by PBS’s “Art21,” Wilson explains how he works. As his Nefertiti installation demonstrates, Wilson says he doesn’t have a desire to make things with his hands directly; His soul is satisfied by manipulating objects and spacial relationships and having things produced the way he wants to see them.

“Grey Area (Brown Version),” is on display in the contemporary gallery of the Brooklyn Museum, where it is a part of the permanent collection.

All photos by Arts Observer

“Grey Area (Brown Version),” 1993 (paint, plaster and wood).

Post Your Thoughts