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American artist awarded Brandeis Creative Arts Award

American Artist Fred Wilson was awarded this year’s Brandeis Creative Arts Award on Tuesday, March 3, in the Wasserman Cinematheque of the International Business School. Wilson, a Bronx, NY native, attended the High School of Music & Art and subsequently received a BFA from Purchase College, State University of New York. 

Wilson began his career as a guard at the Neuberger Museum, a New York State museum affiliated with Purchase College. The time Wilson spent in museums piqued his interest in the field of museology, the study of museums, he said. According to Wilson, the perspectives he gained through the lens of both an educator and a guard shaped his understanding of the artistic, social and political processes that contribute to the construction of museum exhibitions and curation decisions. Wilson said that these observations catalyzed his own artistic projects. 

Wilson received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1999 as well as the Larry Aldrich Foundation award in 2003, according to the Dean of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson who introduced Wilson at the ceremony. He represented the United States at the Biennial Cairo in 1992 and at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, in which he produced the solo exhibition titled “Speak of Me as I Am.” In May 2008, he became a Whitney Museum Trustee, said Hodgson. Wilson is represented by the Pace Gallery in New York. 

Wilson discussed his artistic process and a few of his most “challenging and fulfilling” projects. Although Wilson said that he begins projects without a specific direction, he centralizes his work around particular objectives.

“When I’m traveling and working with different institutions I come without doubt and get deeply in the institution or the city and come up with something that becomes important not only just to me but to the community at large,” said Wilson.

Wilson’s exhibition, “Mining the Museum” (1992), at the Maryland Historical Society, for instance, “contradicted” the history the museum portrayed to the Maryland community by introducing artifacts pertaining to black people’s reality that foreshadowed not only past, but current “maskings” of culture and history. Wilson’s “love to juxtapose” and by doing so “expose,” is a common theme in many of his works. Wilson’s love of Shakespeare, specifically the language of Shakespeare’s Othello, is another way in which he uses cultural and historical mediums to reconstruct African and African American narratives: “[Othello] made such a complex African character, that it just continues to speak to me.”According to Brandeis’ Arts website, the Brandeis Creative Arts Award was established in 1956. The award was given under that name until 1994, and was then modified in 1995 as it evolved into The Poses Institute of the Arts at Brandeis University. Since 2015, the award has been re-implemented as a biennial award. The new award has been received by two people prior to Wilson, in 2015 and 2017. Fred Wilson is the first visual artist to receive the renewed award, according to the website. Visual artists to receive the award among Wilson include notable names such as Georgia O’Keeffe.

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