Retrospective, La Wilson

In museums, a “retrospective” is an exhibition that represents an artist’s entire career from its start to the present. Here, La Wilson provides a personal retrospective all in one piece of art.

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Retrospective, 2004–2006, La Wilson, (Corning, New York, 1924–2018, Hudson, OH), 2004–2006, Assemblage, 34 7/8 in. x 46 1/4 in. x 9 1/8 in. (88.58 cm x 117.48 cm x 23.18 cm), Purchased, by exchange, with funds from Mr. Lucien Q. Moffitt, 2006.34

Wilson’s largest and most complex assemblage, Retrospective summarizes and celebrates the many different types of objects that she incorporated into her work over the course of more than fifty years.

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Wilson described her artistic process this way: “First I collect — anything that appeals, for whatever reasons. Then I start putting things together, usually in a box and what often happens is that these everyday mundane things change their essential nature when [combined] in unexpected ways with other material.”

Under normal conditions its pencils, dominoes, wooden blocks, beads, spools of thread, and other objects would seem commonplace and unimpressive. Placed all together, they take on a new kind of beauty and suggest that excitement can be found in everyday things if one looks closely enough.

When you look across Wilson’s Retrospective, does it seem more like a collection of lots of little objects or like one big picture? Which kind of looking do you think the artist preferred? Do you think it has to be one or the other?