WILMER WILSON IV: Untrustworthy Ground

21 October - 4 December 2021

“My work stems from a dissatisfaction with the history of bronze in public spaces, and an attempt to imagine a future where bronze is not so compromised by its own history. New relationships to materials are required for a comprehensive restructuring of our sociality that might be able to excise white supremacy.” — Wilmer Wilson IV

Untrustworthy Ground presents a continuation of Wilmer Wilson IV’s interrogation of the perceived value of different materials, locations, gestures, and bodies. The artist’s recent cast artworks respond in particular to the escalation of public conversations around bronze monuments. Since the summer of 2020, the removal of bronze statues from public view has been touted as a solution to the material’s entanglement within structures of white supremacy. To Wilson, this discursive centering of visibility/invisibility regarding monuments is inadequate. Instead, the artist sees an opportunity for meaningful action in the transformative moment at which molten bronze begins to take on new form.

The works in Untrustworthy Ground memorialize pedestrian messages left in wet cement, where marks and deep impressions serve as found molds for Wilson’s bronze sculptures. Though stepped over and on hundreds or thousands of times each day and left to fade as the infrastructure ages with wear, these improvisational scrawlings represent an invisible collective who, through unsanctioned intervention into public space, have created an audience of readers. The works presented in the gallery are an attempt to regard the practice as a critical intervention into the hegemony of everyday life and its physical and social infrastructures. By memorializing the instantaneous convergence of molten bronze and the street, Wilmer Wilson IV creates a body of work that questions whose presence can or should be given priority in our shared spaces.  

WILMER WILSON IV (b. 1989) investigates the marginalization and care of Black bodies in contemporary life. Born in Richmond, VA and based in New York and Philadelphia, Wilson is concerned with “the way that blackness is shaped in and by city space” and interested in “producing possibilities for representation that exist apart from global advertising strategies.” Wilson IV holds a BFA from Howard University (2012) and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania (2015). The artist has been part of exhibitions and performances at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2021); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2021); New Orleans Museum of Art (2019); New Museum Triennial, NYC (2018); Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (2017); Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium (2017); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2015); and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2015). His work can be found in the permanent collections of Baltimore Museum of Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others.