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The Mourners, Bill Viola Exhibitions Opening at Saint Louis Art Museum

Jean de La Huerta and Antoine le Moiturier, "Mourner no. 78, mourner with cowl pulled down, right hand raised, left hand holding a book in a flap of his cloak", 1443–56. Alabaster. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Photo: ©FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange) by Jared Bendis and François JAY.

SAINT LOUIS, MO.- The Saint Louis Art Museum opens The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy and Bill Viola: Visitation, two exhibitions presented in tandem this summer that reveal how different artists working more than 500 years apart have chosen to express the most fundamental human emotions.

The Mourners, 40 extraordinary alabaster sculptures forming a funeral procession that adorned the tomb of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, depict personal responses to the Duke’s death. The exhibition brings Museum visitors a rare opportunity to see some of the most extraordinary and important French sculptures from the later Middle Ages. The Museum is the second stop on the exhibition’s US tour, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, under the auspices of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange) and which opened in March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Inspired by similar examples of devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, celebrated video artist Bill Viola modernizes timeless themes of faith and sorrow, heaven and earth to stunning effect in Visitation, a 2008 video installation. The pairing of these two unique exhibitions allows visitors to collapse time and connect 15th-century mourning practices to 21st-century attitudes toward life and death.

The Mourners
Bringing together 40 sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy from 1404 to 1419, this exhibition offers visitors a chance to see some of the most innovative and important French sculptures from the later Middle Ages. The sculptures, which each measure about 16 inches high, depict mute monks in various states of mourning and human grief.

Bill Viola: Visitation
Two ghostly female figures, filmed in grainy black and white, move slowly toward viewers in Visitation, a work from artist Bill Viola’s most recent series of video/sound installations, Transfigurations (2008). After arriving in the foreground, the two female figures break through a threshold of falling water and emerge in high-definition color. Performers Pam Blackwell and Weba Garretson each respond with intense emotion—one gasps and is overcome with convulsive sobbing—and eventually they turn and walk back through the water, becoming immaterial again. Viola’s investigation of the omnipresent themes of life and death, heaven and earth, faith and sorrow has been greatly inspired by the devotional art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Bill Viola: Visitation is curated by Tricia Y. Paik, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art.

Saint Louis Art Museum | "The Mourners" | "Bill Viola: Visitation" |




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