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Internationally acclaimed artist Fred Wilson, American representative at the 1993 Venice Biennale, will visit Lafayette for a campus residency April 13-15, during which he will interact with many students in classes, informal discussions, and one-on-one sessions.

Lafayette’s Richard A. and Rissa Grossman Visiting Artist for 2004-05, Wilson will also give a free public lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in room 108 of the Williams Center for the Arts, which will be followed by a reception.

Wilson will speak with students in a variety of introductory and advanced classes in studio art, art history, and other disciplines. He will have informal discussions with art majors and meet one-on-one with students pursuing department honors in art. Students will also have the opportunity to have dinner with the artist. The residency also will enable Wilson to meet local high school students.

Wilson joins a distinguished group of annual Grossman Visiting Artists at Lafayette who have represented the highest standard of American contemporary art since 1992. The Grossman Artist-in-Residence and Exhibition Series was established by Richard Grossman ’64 and his wife, Rissa, to provide opportunities for intensive interaction between students and major artists. The series also supports presentation of significant exhibitions.

“The Grossman residencies give students the opportunity to meet major international figures in art,” says Robert Saltonstall Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art. “They not only get to see the artist give a public lecture, but work with the artist in a personal context: in small lecture classes, in a seminar, one-on-one, even at dinner. Students will have lots of one-on-one time with him. This residency is in the Lafayette student-mentor tradition.”

Mattison says, “Fred Wilson is an artist who does installations centered around reinstallations in museums that allow us to see cultural prejudices and other sides of history that have been neglected.”

Wilson, 50, was born in the Bronx. He holds a B.F.A. degree from the State University of New York’s College at Purchase. His 1992 “Mining the Museum” exhibit for the Maryland Historical Society brought him to national prominence, Mattison says. Seeking to demonstrate that museums failed to present the broad cultural and social context in their exhibits, he created installations from articles in the MHS’s storage.

Wilson’s selection as American representative to the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest and most prestigious arts festival, was the latest among many awards and honors for him, which include the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” In Venice Wilson showed how Africans, though ignored, figured into Venetian society and culture.

“There have been black people on the streets of Venice for centuries. Art used to take some slight account of them. Maybe it can once again. That simple idea of carefully noticed blackness is a central theme in [Fred Wilson’s show] ‘Speak of Me as I Am.’” wrote Blake Gopnik in the Washington Post. “[Y]ou see Wilson’s attempt to take a closer look at how blacks have fit into the Venetian scheme of things over the years, even until now.”

“The artist insists he wanted his pavilion project [in Venice] to be understood as an engagement with the city rather than an attack — and he has reason to sweat the distinction,” wrote Christopher Miles in the Los Angeles Times. “The pavilion at the world’s largest contemporary art festival is indeed devoted to Venice, but it isn’t a romantic waxing on the City of Doges. Rather, it offers a humor-laced, sometimes harshly illuminating tour through the racial dynamics of the centuries-old hub of trade, tourism, art, politics and religion — in other words, the perfect place to pose questions about race and representation.”

Wilson’s examination of broader context in his installations makes him ideally suited to Lafayette’s pedagogy, according to Mattison.

“What he does in his installations is encourage us toward a broader reading. He has said his artwork isn’t about guilt – he says we have had enough of that – but about understanding who we are, making sense of the past. His work has a reserved quality about it that’s about thoughtfulness,” says Mattison.

Categorized in: Academic News