June 27, 2017 - In Flanders Fields Museum - Wilmer Wilson IV: Fire Bill's Spook Kit
June 27, 2017

In Flanders Fields Museum

Wilmer Wilson IV, Study for Measures Not Men, 2017.

Wilmer Wilson IV
Fire Bill's Spook Kit
July 1, 2017–January 7, 2018

Opening: June 30, 7:15–9pm

In Flanders Fields Museum
Grote Markt 34
B-8900 Ypres
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm

T +32 57 23 94 50


The In Flanders Fields Museum is pleased to present Fire Bill's Spook Kit, the first solo museum exhibition of American artist Wilmer Wilson IV (b. 1989). Presented on the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I, the exhibition features a monumental group of sculptures that mine the connection between the trauma-laden landscape of the Flanders region, and American agricultural sites of postwar social terror.

The material gestures of the work are driven by the fugitive archival presence of an anonymous figure named Fire Bill. An exasperated letter penned under that pseudonym was delivered to a Mississippi sheriff in April of 1919. It threatened to "burn the entire state" and "poison every horse, mule and cow in it" if the continued lynchings of Black people did not stop. The letter caused a minor stir in the press, and was reprinted in two newspapers; both versions have slight but profound differences in spelling, phrasing, and grammar, corresponding to the stance the editors take in relation (or opposition) to its existence. The original letter is lost and Fire Bill makes no more appearances in the archival material from that time, which leaves only the friction between the two reproductions as a trace.

Wilson exploits this language slippage in his new work Measures Not Men (2017). 3000kg of agricultural salt lick blocks are stacked into a monolithic form. With his own hand and the help of stonecutters from the region, the artist carves each version of the letter onto opposing sides of the blocks. It becomes impossible to view one version of the text without the specter of the other version looming from the verso. In an era of natural language processing and leaked CIA style guides, Wilson materializes the ever-contentious political representations latent in common language. A series of appropriated scarecrow sculptures further amplify the agricultural phenomenology of mourning sites as they exist on the Belgian front and in the American cultural psyche. Placed in the context of the museum, the works also function as a material allusion to the at least nineteen Black WWI veterans that were lynched upon their return to the United States.

Wilmer Wilson IV uses performance, sculpture, and photography to query the socially produced category of the ephemeral. He has recently been included in exhibitions at the Barnes Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the American University Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, among others. He graduated from Howard University in 2012, and received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. In 2017 he was awarded a Pew Fellowship. He lives and works in Philadelphia.

The exhibition opening will feature the release of an artist-designed publication integrating with the exhibition, as well as the artist in conversation with Heather Holmes (Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia).

Press: for more information, please contact Jan Dewilde, curator, jan.dewilde [​at​] ieper.be

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