NEW YORK, NY.- James Cohan Gallery
will present the fifth gallery exhibition by internationally acclaimed American artist Bill Viola. The exhibition opens October 23rd and runs through December 5th, 2009. Viola is well-known for using the medium of video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiencesbirth, death, the unfolding of consciousnessand have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. This exhibition spans two decades and includes Pneuma (1994) an installation (this exhibition marks the work's New York premiere) and several flat-screen pieces from the "Transfigurations" series, Viola's newest body of work, which originated with Ocean Without a Shore, which was created for the 15th century Church of San Gallo during the Venice Biennale in 2007.
Viola's signature full-room installation Pneuma from 1994, will be presented in the main gallery space. "Pneuma," an ancient Greek word that has no equivalent in contemporary terms, is commonly translated as soul or spirit. For Viola, it means the breath, or life force that runs through the entire natural world. In this installation, images alternatively emerge and submerge from indistinct shadows, hovering on the edge of recognition. The projections become more like memories or internal sensations than recorded images of places and events. Pneuma's monochrome images are projected into three corners of a darkened room while the sound of white noise permeates the space.
The title of the series "Transfigurations" refers to the moment when a person or an object is transformed not by external means but from within. Viola says "the transformation of the Self, usually provoked by a profound inner revelation or an overwhelming sensation of clarity and fathomless emotion, overcomes the individual until literally a 'new light' dawns on him or her
Some of the most profound human experiences occur at times like these, arising at the outer limits of conscious awareness." In Viola's "Transfigurations" works, black and white images of ghostly figures emerge slowly from complete darkness eventually passing through a threshold of water into a world of color and light. After resting momentarily, the figures are drawn back through to the other realm. Viola combines images filmed in grainy analog video from surveillance cameras with those filmed in High-Definition to bring the viewer to the intersection of obscurity and clarityfrom death to lifeand back again. Among the works in this series are Acceptance (2008,) Incarnation (2008,) The Innocents (2008) and Small Saints (2008).
Other works included in this exhibition are: Poem B (The Guest House) a triptych from 2006 in which images form a tapestry of shifting memories from the past to the present; Bodies of Light, 2006 a flat panel diptych which takes its inspiration from Tantric Buddhist descriptions of the dissolution of the body during the process of birth and death; Old Oak (Study), (2005); and Four Hands (2001).
For over 35 years Bill Viola (b.1951) has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art. Viola's video installationstotal environments that envelop the viewer in image and soundemploy state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity.
Since the early 1970's, Viola's art works have been exhibited worldwide and are included in the collections of international museums and important private collections. Exhibitions include: Bill Viola: Installations and Videotapes, MoMA, NY, 1987; and the travelling exhibition Bill Viola: Unseen Images, 1992-1994, organized by the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Kira Perov. Viola represented the U.S. at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995 with the exhibition Buried Secrets. In 1997 the Whitney Museum organized Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey that traveled to six museums in the US and Europe. In 2002, Going Forth By Day, a five part video "fresco" cycle was presented at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim, NY. In 2003, The Passions, originated at the J. Paul Getty Museum, CA and traveled to the National Gallery, London; the Fondación "La Caixa" in Madrid; and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Other important solo exhibitions have been mounted at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo in 2006 and at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw in 2007. In 2008, Bill Viola: Visioni interiori, a survey exhibition organized by Kira Perov, was presented in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Currently this fall, the exhibition Intimate Works opens at the De Pont, Tilburg, The Netherlands through January 2010.
Viola is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989, the first Medienkunstpreis in 1993, the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government in 2006, the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, MIT in 2009 and the 2009 Catalonia International Prize. In addition to his many honorary doctorates, Viola was invited to be a Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles in 1998. Bill Viola and Kira Perov, his wife and long-time collaborator, live and work in Long Beach, California.