Pop Art Three; SCULPTURE!

George Segal. The Diner. 1964
Form: Plaster cast figures, bar setting, light, etc. Installation sculpture.

Iconography: The plaster figures created by Segal for this environment looked eerily out of place. While they resemble people in the most basic of ways, mimicking body language and facial expression, they are devoid of color or life, making them feel cold and lacking personality when placed in a realistic, warm environment. "...Because of his interest in the everyday world, Segal was considered to be a founder of the Pop Art movement in the early sixties, but his individual approach quickly distinguished him from the friends and colleagues with whom he exhibited. Far removed from the wit and sophisticated detachment of their art, the subject Segal deals with is the human condition, its solitude and fragility, which he expresses with a strongly felt sympathy.....Plastered white, frozen in stereotypical poses and installed in a realistic environment made even more real by the addition of ready-made props evoking the urban decor, Segal's figures, which convey his keen sense of observation, serve as symbols of a humanity that is dominated by social and material contingencies. His works, which juxtapose individuals and their surroundings, emanate an eerie feeling of alienation. In addition to representing the banality of modern life, Segal has created sculptural portraits, depiction's of intimate activities like bathing and dressing, as well as overtly political subjects." 
 www.mbam.qc.ca (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)

Context: According to Stokstad, Segal began his artistic career by painting nude figures on large canvases. Later he began to form figures from chicken wire, burlap and plaster. When he became comfortable with the medium be began to actually cast his figures from live models and placed them in environments of his creation, creating a tension between the cold, hollow casts of people and an actual environment that a living person could just as easily occupy.

George Segal, Holocaust
Form: Bronze sculpture, white paint, barbed wire fencing.

Iconography: (Taken from  www.chgs.umn.edu, Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies) "George Segal's public sculpture, "The Holocaust," sits in Legion of Honor Park in San Francisco overlooking a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. Often visitors find the sculpture an unexpected intrusion on the view, and an unfriendly reminder to one of  the most significant genocides of the 20th century. Segal's outwork work is executed in bronze and painted white. It has been the subject of graffiti, but Segal mentioned, at a 1998 conference at Notre Dame University, that he did not find this a problem since graffiti was a reminder that problems of prejudice have not been solved. Segal's ensemble of bodies is not random. One can find a "Christ-like" figure in the assemblage, reflecting on the Jewishness of Jesus, as well as a woman holding an apple, a reflection on the idea of original sin and the biblical connection between Jews and Christians, and raising the question of this relationship during the Holocaust. The essential figure of the man standing at the fence is probably derived from Margaret Bourke-White's famous Life Magazine 1945 photograph of the liberation of Buchenwald."

Context: According to one art critic, "Pop Art is notoriously short on conscience, like Andy Warhol at a disco. It derives its kick from a culture moving too fast for reflection. It shows that products aimed at transitory desires can outlive high-toned art, like Styrofoam that refuses to biodegrade. Like Warhol's car crashes, however, it can get pretty scary for all its cynicism. At his best, George Segal nurses his fears and degradation well."  www.haberarts.com. This work by Segal is scary to see, and sobering as well when viewed in person. Segal is taking his view of people as isolated and distant and magnifying it about a thousand times by using an atrocity such as the Holocaust to comment on exactly how cold and heartless a society can become. 


Edward Kienholz. The State Hospital (INTERIOR) 1966
Tableau: plaster casts, fiberglass, hospital beds, 
bedpan, hospital table, goldfish bowls, live black fish,
lighted neon tubing, steel hardware, wood, 
paint 96 x 144 x 120 in. (243.8 x 365.8 x 304.8 cm)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Form: Installation sculpture of various materials creating a frightening and somewhat sickly looking display. 

Iconography: According to the Oxford Dictionary of Art, "{Kienholz} belonged to the California school of Funk art, using the bizarre and shoddy detritus of contemporary life, and creating situations of a horrific and shockingly gruesome character. His brutal images of murder, sex, death, and decay have both attracted and repelled the imagination. A typical example of his work is The State Hospital (Moderna Mus., Stockholm,1964-6), showing a mental patient strapped to his bed, with his own self-image in a thought bubble strapped to the bunk above. Both figures are modelled with revolting realism but have glass bowls for heads." www.xrefer.com
Looking at this piece, one eels a sense of sickness and decay, Kienholz obviously felt strongly about the treatment of the mentally ill who were confined to the underfunded state hospitals, and was able to make a very strong statement with this work. One would be hard pressed to find a viewer who on first glance would not find this piece disturbing and thought provoking.

Context: Looking at the life, and death, of Edward Kienholz, it becomes clear what kind of an artist he was and why he created the works that he did. In a short biography found in the Art History Department of Tower Hill School in Delaware, we find this about Edward Kienholz "In 1994, Edward Kienholz died of a heart attack at age 65. While this might have been the end of most people, Kienholz still had one thing left to do: "His corpulent, embalmed body was wedged into the front seat of a brown 1940 Packard coupe. There was a dollar and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of 1931 Chianti beside him and the ashes of his dog Smash in the back. He was set for the afterlife. To the whine of bagpipes, the Packard, steered by his widow Nancy Reddin Kienholz, rolled like a funeral barge into the big hole."(Hughes) "Edward Kienholz's last piece of art was his burial (Hughes)."Such has been the legacy of Edward Kienholz. Born 1927 in Fairfield, Washington, Kienholz received his education at Eastern Washington College of Education and briefly at Whitworth College, Spokane. He had no formal artistic training, but gained skills and memories that would help further his works later in life. "He earned his living as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, as the manager of a dance band, as a dealer in secondary cars, a caterer, decorator, and a vacuum cleaner salesman (Staudek). After moving to Los Angeles in 1953, he founded the NOW gallery in1956, a haven for local artists, and the Ferus Gallery in 1957. In1961, his style of work began to change, and he created his first environment, Roxy's. He met Nancy
Reddin, later to be his fifth wife, in 1972, and began to create art in collaboration with her. (Sheldon)In 1973 Kienholz was a Guest Artist of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin. He eventually moved to Berlin with wife Nancy, and spent half of the year in Berlin, half in Hope, Idaho. In 1975, he received a Guggenheim Award, and in 1977 created The Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery (Staudek). From 1954 to1994, he created 176 separate pieces of art (Heijnen)." www.towerhill.org.
He had obviously seen much of society, and had a lot to say about it. 


Claes Oldenburg. Soft Toilet and Medicine Cabinet. 1966 
vinyl plexiglas and kapok
life size

1972 drawing

Claes Oldenburg. Clothespin. 1976 

Typewriter Eraser 1998

Form: The toilets were created using the same kind of vinyl one would find on a beanbag chair, It is soft and pliable, giving the works a 'droopy' look. The clothespin and eraser were created with more durable materials such as steel, as they are intended as permanent outside objects.

Iconography: What makes Oldenburg unique in the genre of Pop Art is his sense of humor. He has things to say about society, but he does it by poking fun instead of taking a more serious stance. As he says himself, "I am for an art that is political-erotic-mystical, that does something else than sit on its ass in a museum." -- Claes Oldenburg, 1961. and, "The main reason for the colossal objects is the obvious one, to expand and intensify the presence of  the vessel -- the object," Oldenburg has said.
 "Perhaps I am more a still-life painter -- using the city as a tablecloth." At another time he remarked,
 "Because my work is naturally non-meaningful, the meaning found in it will remain doubtful and inconsistent -- which is the way it should be. All that I care about is that, like any startling piece of nature, it should be capable of stimulating meaning." www.salon.com
It can almost be said that Oldenburg is the quintessential Pop Artist, one who truly does not take anything seriously, but still has the ability to shock viewers with the size and sheer fun of his work.

Context: (Taken from Salon Magazine, 2000) "Oldenburg, who turns 70 on Jan. 29, has spent much of his life bending, inflating, melting and enlarging the ordinary objects of 20th century American reality. Over the last four decades, Oldenburg has made it his business to soften the hard, harden the soft and transmute the modest into the monumental. He has created shirts and ties and dresses and ice cream cones and pies, and even the contents of an entire store, out of plaster-soaked cloth and wire. Using vinyl stuffed with kapok, he built pay telephones, typewriters, light switches and a complete bathroom -- sink, tub, scale and toilet. He constructed a catcher's mitt, 12 feet tall, out of metal and wood, and built a four-and-a-half-story clothespin out of Cor-Ten steel. In the last two decades, focusing almost exclusively on giant monuments, he has created a 38-foot-tall flashlight, 10-story baseball bat, a 60-foot-long umbrella, a three-story-high faucet with a 440-foot water-spewing red hose, a 40-foot-tall book of  matches and a partially buried bicycle that would fill  most of a football field, among numerous other projects located from Tokyo to Texas." 
Clearly, for Claus Oldenburg, size does matter.


Marcel Duchamp
Form: Found object, i.e. a urinal. The name R.Mutt has been painted on it and it is to be displayed as shown, the part that would be mounted to the wall being used as the side it rests upon.

Iconography: Duchamp was, by the time he 'made' this piece of art, very contemptuous of the art world. Her had already learned how to paint, and was quite good at it, but found it to be too filled with trickery and illusions for his taste. He was more interested in the 'ready-made' objects of the world around him, chairs, tables, bicycles, urinals. He saw an intrinsic craft in each of these everyday objects and wanted to bring notice to the fact that these objects had been created, first in someone's imagination and then in reality, the same way a painter created a masterpiece. By taking the urinal and placing it on its' back, signing it, and putting it in a different environment, he was forcing people to view it differently. This act outraged some and intrigued others. Is it art? Or, is it just a urinal? Is there a difference? Even today, this piece is still being displayed and still having as strong as an impact as it did in years past. Ultimately, this turned out to be one of Duchamps' most well-known and successful pieces.

Context: By looking at his biography, one can get a better understanding of what inspired him to begin working with found objects as a way of creative growth during the times in which he was practicing art. According to www.beatmuseum.org, "Marcel Duchamp, French Dada artist, whose small but controversial output exerted a strong influence on the development of 20th-century avant-garde art. Born on July 28, 1887, in Blainville, brother of the artist Raymond Duchamp-Villon and half brother of the painter Jacques Villon, Duchamp began to paint in 1908. After producing several canvases in the current mode of Fauvism, he turned toward experimentation and the avant-garde, producing his most famous work, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) in 1912; portraying continuous movement through a chain of overlapping cubistic figures, the painting caused a furor at New York City's famous Armory Show in 1913. He painted very little after 1915, although he continued until 1923 to work on his masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1923,Philadelphia Museum of Art), an abstract work, also known as The Large Glass, composed in oil and wire on glass, that was enthusiastically received by the surrealists. In sculpture, Duchamp pioneered two of the main innovations of the 20th century kinetic art and ready-made art. His "ready-mades" consisted simply of everyday objects, such as a urinal and a bottle rack. His Bicycle Wheel (1913, original lost; 3rd version, 1951, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), an early example of kinetic art, was mounted on a kitchen stool.  After his short creative period, Duchamp was content to let others develop the themes he had originated; his pervasive influence was crucial to the development of surrealism, Dada, and pop art. Duchamp became an American citizen in 1955. He died in Paris on October 1, 1968. 


Johns. Painted Bronze. 1960
Form: Bronze cast sculpture, painted realistically to give the appearance of actual Ale cans.

Iconography: As a Pop artist, Johns was interested mainly in taking items from his everyday life that held an importance for him and reappropriating them into fine art. He was not bitter or trying to make a political statement as Kienholz did, nor was he as flippant and free-spirited as Oldenburg. Simply, he wate to make a statement about himself, what he could create and what held as important. What makes his Painted Bronze a work of art s the craft that went into making it. He had to sculpt and cast the pieces from plaster into bronze, refine it, then painstakingly paint every small detail onto it. The skill needed to create this piece was the same skill that Degas used to create his 'Small Ballerina' bronze. The difference is what the meaning is to the different artists, and the reflection of the time they were living in. ballerinas and the ballet were important to Degas, and Ballentine ale was important to Johns. The end result for either artist was a beautiful piece of sculpture.

Context: (Originally published in Modern Painters (Summer 1996) "Johns's sculptures mostly date from a four-year period early in his career, 1958-61, suggesting a short-lived interest.  But although Johns's enormous reputation rests on his painting and printmaking, the object is a crucial aspect of his work.  His paintings often include a collage element, with plaster casts or found objects protruding from the surface, or the support itself being an actual, identifiable object, such as a crate or an inverted, stretched canvas. Furthermore, his sculptures, which are mostly in his own collection, often feature as subjects in his paintings or prints: Painted Bronze (Savarin) 1960, for instance, (brushes in a coffee tin which he had cast in bronze and then proceeded to paint, quite convincingly but in such a way that they look more like a three dimensional painting than the original) is a frequently recurring motif in paintings and prints.  Of course, this begs the question (the sort of question champions of Johns find so pregnant and exacting): is he painting his own sculpture, Painted Bronze (Savarin), or is he painting an object in his studio, some brushes in a coffee tin, which hitherto just happened also to be the subject of a sculpture, Painted Bronze (Savarin)? Because Johns can offer seemingly little else by way of aesthetic consolation, this sort of epistemological tease can sometimes constitute the main interest in his work.  And however spiritually removed he is from the aesthetic that followed in his trail, Johns was undoubtedly a prototype for the minimalists and conceptualists.  Donald Judd's dictum that art has only to be interesting is
implicit in much appreciation of Johns." A short biography of Johns shows his life as an artist was connected to others on the PopArt scene of the 1960's and 70's, and helps to gives us an understanding of how popart as a whole developed along the lines that it did, with the shared ideas and idealism of the times." Born in 1930 at Augusta, Georgia. He grew up in South Carolina. He was drafted into the army and stationed in Japan. Between 1949 and 1951 he studied at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. From 1952 to 1958 he worked in a bookshop in New York. He also did display work with Robert Rauschenberg for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany. In 1954 he painted his first flag picture. He had his first one-man exhibition in 1958 at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York. He was represented at the Venice Biennale during the same year. His picture Grey Numbers also won the International Prize at the Pittsburgh Biennale. In 1959 he took part with Rauschenberg in Allan Kaprow's Happening Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts. He was included in the collective exhibition Sixteen Americans in the same year at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1960 he began working with lithographs. In 1961 he did his first large map picture and travelled to Paris for an exhibition at the Galerie Rive Droite. In 1964 he was given a comprehensive retrospective at the Jewish Museum, New York. The catalog included texts by John
Cage and Alan Solomon. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in the same year. In 1965 he had a retrospective at the Passadena Art Museum, organized by Walter Hopps. During the same year he saw a Duchamp exhibition and won a prize at the 6th International Exhibition of Graphic Art, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia. In 1966 he had a one-man exhibition of drawings at the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington. In 1967 he rented a loft in Canal Street and painted Harlem Light using a tile motif. He also illustrated Frank O'Hara's book of poems "In Memory of My Feelings". He was Artistic Adviser for the composer John Cage and Merce
Cunningham's Dance Company until 1972, collaborating with Robert Morris, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Bruce Naumann. In that year he was represented at the documenta "4", Kassel, designed costumes for Merce Cunningham's "Walkaround Time" and spent seven weeks at the printers Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. In
1973 he met Samuel Beckett in Paris. He moved to Stony Point, N.Y. He was given a comprehensive retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1977, shown in 1978 at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Hayward Gallery, London, and Seibu Museum of Art,Tokyo. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1978. In 1979 the Kunstmuseum Basle put on an exhibition of his graphic work which toured Europe. In 1988 he was awarded the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale." ( www.fi.muni.cz)

Jeff Koons. Puppy. c1985
Form: Huge sculpture of a puppy, created out of stainless steel and thousands of different plants and flowers.

Iconography: (Taken from www.cavant-garde.com) "Jeff koons' puppy is a staggering achievement of sculptural imagination, horticultural dexterity and engineering skill. first created in 1992 for a temporary exhibition in the german city of arolson, puppy was an immediate sensation drawing huge crowds and critical acclaim. a symbol, according to koons, of "love, warmth and happiness" this contemporary masterpiece is a triumph of scale, colour and materials. rising 43 feet tall from the puppy's paws to its alert ears, the sculpture is formed from a series of stainless steel sections constructed to hold over 25 tons of soil watered by an internal irrigation system. this floral giant is composed of over seventy thousand plants, including begonias, impatiens, petunias, marigolds and lobelias.  once described as 'the seventh wonder of the world', puppy was installed at the museum of contemporary art in sydney australia in 1996. once year later puppy traveled to bilbao in spain where it became a permanent part of the guggenheim  museum's collection and an icon for basque city. organised by rockerfeller centre in association with the public art fund, this new york exhibition of puppy was made possible by the efforts of many dedicated riggers, horticulturists and volunteers working over a period of three weeks to install this monumental work. puppy at rockerfeller centre is the first exhibition of this public sculpture in the united states. born in 1955, jeff koons is one of the world's most widely recognised artists. in the 1980's his sculptures and photography explored contemporary american iconography turning popular kitsch into high art. koons signature work most often uses strikingly simple imagery transformed into sculptures using the finest of materials."

Context: Koons is notorious for taking innocent seeming objects and creating a new meaning for them by increasing their size, creating them out of different or unexpected materials, and sometimes filling them with double-meaning or messages. However, in the case of Puppy, it would seem that his only quest was to create something beautiful and decorative for the benefit of it being able to beautify a space. This could be just art for the sake of being art, nothing more or less, and like an Oldenburg statue is just a beautiful piece done on an enormous scale, but lacking the irony and humor found in Oldenburgs work.


Jeff Koons. Travel Bar. 1986
cast stainless steel
Form: Stainless steel replica of a 1950's-60's travel bar set.

Iconography: "...an upper-class travel bar decanter for liquor cast in stainless steel (the proletariat silver according to Jeff Koons); part of the Luxury and Degradaton show. Liquor is sealed inside, but it is withheld, since to break the seal would be to break apart the work. Playing on status objects empty of soul that suggest an artificial luxury, and artificial value, vanitas imagery. Koons uses the strategy of withholding, sealing the liquor inside where one can't get to it without ruining the work; desire always out of reach as a metaphor for the false promises of advertising and the way even status objects of surplus can't fill the void or lack of missing moral values..... imagery for an age of consumption to excess; the use of status objects as support mechanisms for the individual and signs of class power. The slick, shiny surfaces of the hyperreal, hollow at the core. " (Taken from www.csulb.edu)

Context: As a consummate Pop Artist, Koons has taken a simple, everyday object and created a metaphor out of it. By making it all appear to be created out of silver he is emphasizing the upper-class status of those wealthy enough to carry their liquor around with them, putting a sheen on the fact that alcohol is often referred to as 'poor mans' cocaine.'  It's possible that one of the underlying messages is the human reality of addiction and substance abuse, no matter how wealthy one may be.


Jeff Koons, Jackson and Bubbles
Form: Life-size porcelain scupture, gold leaf.

Iconography: (Taken from www.sfmoma.org) "For Michael Jackson and Bubbles, from the artist's Banality series, Koons directed Italian ceramicists to create a greatly oversized figurine from a publicity photograph of the celebrity and his chimpanzee. The performer and his pet are posed as companions, wearing matching gold band uniforms and an excess of makeup that stands in for genuine facial expression. Bubbles is nestled in Jackson's lap, their limbs confused to the point where one of the legs of the chimp could easily be mistaken for a third arm of the singer. They are instantly recognizable and undeniably beautiful.Yet right at the cold, shiny surface of their snow-white faces are rather disturbing issues of race, gender, and sexuality that are often  part and parcel of our fascination with public personae. Over the course of rising from child stardom in the early 1970s, as the youngest member of The Jackson Five, to an unsurpassable level of international fame in the eighties and nineties, this cultural icon whom we know to be a black man has come to more closely resemble a white woman. The three-dimensional sculpture inhabits our space, the space of the general (albeit museum-going) public, but Michael Jackson himself is a man that we can never know. No matter how much media attention he receives, to the millions of people in whose consciousness he resides he will never be more than the flat character of tabloid reproductions and television. Koons' use of ceramic points directly to the hollowness and fragility of celebrity status."

Context: "... in a series of works he called "Banality", Koons creates sculptures of dimensions and details monstrous and absurd.These works, like Michael Jackson and Bubbles, demand attention by virtue of their size and seductive porcelain surfaces, yet they disturb as well. The dead white of Jackson's skin, his glamorous  pose with Bubbles in matching clothing invites a chilling range of questions about celebrity and image making." (www.broadartfoundation.org)


Jeff Koons, Illona
Form: Photo

Iconography:  Taking his orientation along the lines of mainstream culture to even further extremes, Koons, in the late eighties, focused increasingly on the topic of pornography. In 1991,at the height of his success, he married the Italian porno star Cicciolina and made the relationship the subject of his art. The series of works Made in Heaven (1991), which shows Koons with his wife as larger-than-Iife figures having sex, gained him widespread international attention.( www.absolutearts.com) If Koons is trying to make a point about sex and desire being a motivating for in society, then he has gone beyond symbolism and suggestion with these works and began to give his message out blatantly.

Context:  (From www.eyestorm.com)"....These product-based works are evidence of Koons' belief in the artist as a socially accountable, sanctimonious arbiter of taste: a kind of Holy Trinity of cultural reproduction. Koons is at once the Father (the giver of form), the Son (the messenger of everlasting life) and the Holy Spirit (the creator of faith). Through such debased metaphors as these we might come to appreciate Koons' union with Ilona Staller: aka LaCicciolina, an Italian porn star and politician whose lack of inhibition Koons interpreted as a symbol of moral freedom and purity. As such, her appearance in Koons' sculptures and photo-works marked the ultimate consummation of  his practice: the transformation of the ultimate consumer product (a human being) into a glowing object of worship. Koons leads by example; showing that if he can achieve his desire then, Hey, you can too! Koons and Staller were married a year after she had begun appearing in his work, emphasizing the genuine, 'innocent' nature of his desire.......There is a profound faith in  human desire and agency at the core of Koons' work: a utilitarian belief that everything we want and do is based on a drive for sensual pleasure that transcends the pursuit of mere sex, work, or money. Koons' earliest works from the late 70s - when he  was trading cotton on the New
 York Stock Exchange to fund  his art practice - were mass-produced inflatable flowers and toys placed  carefully on mirrors, marrying a child-like naivety to sexual metaphors and consumerism. From that point onwards, the relationship  between the selection, production and display of commercial products became ever more elaborate within Koons' work, and the transformative role of the artist-as-savior grew ever more pronounced. In the early 80s, Koons began selecting and entombing various models of Hoover and New Shelton vacuum cleaners in fluorescent-lit Plexiglas vitrines, the products on display seeming at once brand new (full of potential) and stillborn (already dead)."

Fred Wilson. Mining the Museums, Slave Shackles. c1990
Form: A sterling silvr tea set surrounded by slave shackles.

Iconography:  Fred Wilson is an African American artist whose Pop Art Influence is mainly political and concerned with exposing the racism found not only in the art world at large, but also in the musuems and institutions America holds as paragons of artistic virtue and knowledge. This section of his work is 'found objects', that is to say objects 'found' in the storerooms and catalogue shelves of museums and for some reason never displayed. He felt that people needed to be aware of the oppression forced on minorities and slaves in decades past, and how their labor helped to shape what American society, and art, has become. Written in the UCSF newspaper was this excerpt about his show ".....The exhibit was rich with the unexpected, from cigar store Indians turning their backs on viewers and reward posters  for runaway slaves to a whipping post surrounded by period chairs of different styles and slave shackles set amid ornate silver serving vessels. Many of the objects had been stored for decades and never displayed, let alone allowed to shine or shatter any illusions. Others were moved around and mixed in a sly or provocative fashion. All were used to restore context and create a new chemistry between the objects, their display and the viewer." (www.ucsf.edu)More was written as well in Maryland where the exhibit was first shown,(Taken from the Contemporary Arts Museum,)"....Wilson shook the art world with his landmark Mining the Museum exhibition at the MarylandHistorical Society (MHS) in Baltimore. The MHS gave Wilson carte blanche, allowing him to research the Society's collection, its history and its place within the community. Wilson proceeded to reinstall the third floor galleries in a way that revealed the latent racism that existed there.3 Thousands of museum professionals saw the exhibition, and its run was extended by popular demand.4 With this installation, Wilson brought a fresh eye to the MHS, reconstructed its presentation of Maryland's past in a new, more encompassing manner, and exposed how a seemingly neutral institution might unwittingly reinforce racist attitudes. Since then, Wilson has been invited into museums all around the world to explore their collections and practices and to offer a startling reappraisal through his own reinstallations of their holdings." www.camh.org

Context: "On December 8, 1991, Fred Wilson gave a gallery talk at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.1 He greeted his audience in the lobby and had lunch with them in the museum's restaurant. He then excused himself, saying that he needed to change into a costume and that they should meet him upstairs at the entrance to the exhibition for his gallery talk. Wilson changed into a Whitney guard's uniform and stood in the gallery where he was to meet his group, waiting next to a sign with his name on it that marked the point where the tour was to begin. Though they looked for him, no one "saw" Wilson. The artist's worst suspicions were confirmed-as museum guard, he had become invisible. Wilson eventually revealed himself to his audience and proceeded to give his gallery talk  Earlier that same year, in the spring of 1991, Wilson had presented a two-part exhibition at Metro Pictures and Gracie Mansion galleries in New York. For these exhibitions, Wilson created a series of faux museum installations that addressed cultural exploitation and the  underlying racism in museums. Utilizing such tools of the trade as pedestals, vitrines, and wall labels, Wilson demonstrated how ethnographic art, when removed from its proper context, wrenched away from everything that shaped its origins, is essentially  neutralized. For example, in Friendly Natives, skeletons are laid out for view in Victorian-style mahogany vitrines with such labels as "Someone's Mother," and "Someone's Sister."With Guarded View, Wilson came at museum racism from a different angle. Four mannequins are lined up in a row, displayed together on a pedestal, each wearing, as the labels indicate, the uniform of a different New York museum. From left to right they are: The Jewish Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art .2 Wilson, who grew up in and around New York, is an avid museum-goer, and is himself of African-American and Caribbean-Indian descent, also
worked briefly as a museum guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art while he attended the State University of New York. He carried away from the experience a dichotomous sense of both being on display and yet being invisible. Years later, speaking to other artists who had held similar jobs, he heard stories of guards and other museum staff working together for decades without exchanging so much as a hello. Wilson therefore set out to create a work that would make viewers aware of this institutional racism." www.camh.org