Late Nights at the Whitney
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On Monday, February 25, Youth Insights Leaders went to visit the artist Fred Wilson’s studio in Brooklyn. Our visit with Wilson was an eye opening experience. We were there in order to begin working with him to create work for a special exhibition at the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and we got a chance to get to meet the artist and look at his artwork before our collaboration began.
YI Leaders had done extensive research on Wilson and we were excited to finally meet him in person. As we ventured into the neighborhood, we reached his studio, which is built from a converted garage. Two of his works were hung on the studio wall, and many other pieces were kept in an extensive storage room. Wilson gives himself a lot of space to work, and seeing the studio was a lesson in organization and brainstorming. He had bossa nova music playing during our entire visit, which was a very soothing experience—representative of the atmosphere he himself creates with his warm and easygoing personality.
Wilson introduced us to one of his artistic principles by having us each observe a different apple, and then asking us to identify our apple again once the apples had been piled together in a bag. We discussed the value of observation, and the details within everything in our lives, even things that might seem indistinguishable or monotonous. Wilson incorporates his meticulous attention to detail into all of his work, including the current project he showed us, where he paints tiny black lines on raw canvas. By doing this, he re-creates flags of the world exactly but extracting the color from them in order to question its meaning.
Wilson later gave us a presentation on the history of his work and career, which included an explanation of how he thought about and created one of his earliest and most well-known artworks, Mining the Museum (1992). In that work, he re-positioned museum objects to create displays that encouraged viewers to question conventional ways that museums might collect and exhibit art or historical objects. Throughout his career, Wilson has tried to understand and reinterpret the perspectives and practices of different art museums, historical museums, and other cultural institutions. In doing this Wilson has created his own role within the art world, at once a conceptual artist and a kind of curator, which is remarkable.
By Julia, Youth Insights Leader