Fred Wilson's installation at Metro Pictures titled "Panta Rhei - A Gallery of Ancient Classical Art" uses the model of standard museum exhibition conventions to explore the selective presentation of historical and cultural information.
In this installation Wilson considers the issue of Africa's participation in the early developments of Western civilization through an exploration of the etiology of Greco-Roman culture and myth, and in particular its Egyptian origins. Concentrating on Egypt's religious and cultural connections to Greco-Roman mythology, and its geographic location in the northeast of the African continent, Wilson addresses the traditional, delimiting view of Western culture as it is generally represented. The well known exchange of goods and culture between the civilizations of Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Greece is not clearly represented in other than scholarly versions of the sources of Western civilization.
Wilson's "Gallery of Ancient Classical Art" makes reference to the once common museum practice of presenting plaster cast reproductions of classical sculpture. The ideal represented in these casts has been the accepted version of superior cultural values reflected in modern era public sculpture from Fascist Europe to Washington, D.C. Using plaster casts, Wilson relabels Greek gods with their Egyptian predecessors and combines Egyptian deity and Greek gods in violent assemblage.
Wilson has said that "...as an artist, I am interested in the movement of ideas during this ancient period. I do not pretend to promote a scholarly, absolute viewpoint. I am interested in re-examining familiar attitudes with regard to the history of the world, given the historic and documented biases of past generations." Wilson has traveled extensively in Egypt, as he has in Africa. This installation, as the major project he is working on at the Seattle Art Museum (opening in January), and the project for the Cairo Biennial (December 1992) reflects Wilson's very personal interest in those cultures. The Cairo project juxtaposes 18th Century representations of Egyptian exotic images in painting and the decorative arts with African American fashion and decorative objects that depict Egyptian imagery.
Fred Wilson was born in 1954 in the Bronx and currently lives in New York City. His most recent installation organized by the Contemporary in Baltimore, was "Mining the Museum" at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, and his piece Guarded View is currently at the Parrish Museum in Southampton, N.Y. This is Wilson's second one-person show at Metro Pictures.
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