Fred Wilson (b. 1954) Atlas, 1995 Painted ceramic, globe, pushpins, and flags 19 1/2 × 12 × 12 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Neda Young 2016.51
Here, a painted ceramic Black figurine represents Atlas, who bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. Clothed in a white waiter’s jacket and green slacks, he contorts and bends under the outsize globe that rests on the platter he holds aloft with his left hand. Black pushpins on the globe map Black populations worldwide, linking the Americas to Africa and Asia to Europe, and transforming the servile figure into a symbol for the African diaspora. By manipulating figurines that portray stereotypical representations of African Americans, Fred Wilson examines and critiques the various meanings historically imposed upon them.