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New Acquisitions: Video Work by Bill Viola at Oakland Museum
Bill Viola, The Passing, 1991.In memory of Wynne Lee Viola. Videotape, black-and-white, mono sound. Photo: Kira Perov. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI, New York).


OAKLAND, CA.- The Oakland Museum of California presents four newly acquired works by Bill Viola in an exhibition opening Saturday, August 26, in the museum’s Oakes Gallery. The show continues through Sunday, December 31, 2006. New Acquisitions: Video Work by Bill Viola includes The Reflecting Pool–Collected Work 1977-80 (1977-80), Anthem (1983), The Passing (1991), and Déserts (1994). The work will be shown in a cinema format. The entire program runs about 2.5 hours (individual works run from 11 to 62 minutes), and will screen twice a day.

“Bill Viola is one of the leading figures in the field of video art, and as a California-based artist the Oakland Museum of California felt it was very important to have his work represented in our collection,” said Karen Tsujimoto, senior curator of art.

“The four videotapes that have been acquired are intended to give a sense of the breadth of Viola’s aesthetic and philosophical sensibility,” Tsujimoto added. “Despite the artist’s reputation as a pioneer in the use of video technology, he has the soul of an artist.”

Viola, 55, has been instrumental in establishing video as a vital form of contemporary art, and has helped expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For more than 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video, and works for television.

The artist’s video installations—total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound—employ state-of-the-art technologies, distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. Viola uses video as an avenue to self-knowledge; his work is informed by a deeply held set of spiritual values. Viola’s work communicates to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the word directly, and in their own personal way.

Born in New York, Viola received his BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University in 1973. During the 1970s he lived in Florence, Italy, as technical director of production for Art/Tapes/22, one of the first video art studios in Europe. He then traveled widely to study and record traditional performing arts in the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, and Japan. From 1973 to 1980 he performed with avant-garde composer David Tudor as a member of his Rainforest ensemble.

In 1977 Viola was invited to show his videotapes at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) by cultural arts director Kira Perov. A year later she joined him in New York, where they married and began a lifelong collaboration. In 1980, they lived in Japan on a Japan/U.S. cultural exchange fellowship where they studied Buddhism with Zen Master Daien Tanaka and became the first artists-in-residence at Sony Corporation’s Atsugi research laboratories.

Three of Viola’s major installations and videotapes were shown in New York at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987, and Viola’s first large exhibition of works toured six venues in Europe beginning in 1992. Viola represented the U.S. at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995, premiering an ensemble of five new installation works titled Buried Secrets. In 1997 the Whitney Museum of American Art organized Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey, an exhibition that traveled to six museums in the United States and Europe.

Viola was invited to be a Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles in 1998, and later that year created a suite of three new video pieces for the rock group Nine Inch Nails’ world tour. His 1994 videofilm Déserts, created to accompany the music composition of the same name by Edgard Varèse, received its American premiere at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1999 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

In 2002, Viola completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth By Day, a five-part projected digital “fresco” cycle in high-definition video, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Two years later Viola began collaborating with director Peter Sellars, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, and executive producer Kira Perov to create a new production of Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, which was presented in project form by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in December 2004.

Viola is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989. He holds honorary doctorates from Syracuse University (1995), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1997), California Institute of the Arts (2000), and Royal College of Art, London (2004) among others, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. He and Kira Perov live with their two children in Long Beach.






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