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Fred Wilson

The idea for Arise! sprang from Wilson’s interest in spots — of oil, ink, and tar — and their racial associations in Western culture (think of the baby fashioned out of tar that ensnares Br’er Rabbit in Disney’s controversial 1946 film Song of the South). Dripping acid onto etching plates, Wilson lent the resulting spots “voices” by inserting words spoken by black characters created by white writers, including Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, and William Shakespeare. The result is a provocative discussion, seemingly about blackness itself. The print’s title quotes Shakespeare’s Othello: “Arise, black vengeance, from hollow hell!” Few differences separate the proof and the final print, showing the completeness of Wilson’s original vision.


Fred Wilson dripping acid onto a copperplate at Crown Point Press, photograph by Kathan Brown, Courtesy Crown Point Press

Banner image: Detail, Mamma Andersson, Room Under the Influence, 2008, color spitbite aquatint, sugarlift aquatint, aquatint, and softground etching,  Gift of Kathan Brown, Crown Point Press, © Mamma Andersson

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