Artist Fred Wilson specializes in a hybrid practice that is part art-making and part anthropological excavation, wherein he seeks to uncover and recreate the radically erased histories of Africans in global societal diasporas. For example, his work for the 2003 Venice Biennale, in which he combined historical research into peripheral African citizens of early Europe with the fabrication of original Murano glass sculptures.
In the latter, traditional techniques were appropriated and redirected into the production of conceptually rich works of black glass in droplet shapes, which were both physical references (blood, tears) and confounding objects (opaque, reflective glass pieces).
Other more recent works such as at his current exhibition “Afro Kismet” give the history of Istanbul a similar treatment, in which for example the historical art of highly decorative mosaic is employed in monumental wall-sized sculptures that read “Black is Beautiful” and “Mother Africa” in Arabic script. Other works continue these investigations, such as black lacquered chandeliers and elaborate sculptural works based on ornate pieces of furniture, as well as a domestic vignette investigating tropes of interior space in which some people are comfortable and others are captive.
The whole is displayed alongside vintage prints, sculptures and paintings from other centuries, representing the infrequent depiction of African people in the historical record, and tied together by citations of James Baldwin’s book Another Country, recounting his own time in Istanbul.