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Diana Thater's Peonies, a nine-monitor videowall, on view at the Wexner Center
Diana Thater, Peonies, 2011. 9 video monitors, 1 DVD player. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Peter Mallet, installation views at Hauser & Wirth, London, 2011.
COLUMBUS, OH.- Diana Thater’s Peonies, a nine-monitor videowall, is now on view through December 30 in the Wexner Center’s lower lobby. Quietly panning over pink and yellow peony blooms, the video initially appears to be a straightforward account of several flowers scattered across a watery surface. But as in most of Thater’s video projects, the technical aspects of Peonies and the artist’s investigations of duration and figure/ground relationships are as compelling as the work’s visual and aesthetic elements.

Running nearly six minutes, Peonies was shot on two full rolls of 16mm film, but it is screened on a Blu-ray disc, inviting viewers to consider how representations of color differ in analogue and digital technology. Filmed up close, the blooms transform into abstracted washes of almost psychedelic color, morphing from one image to the next. The blooms become less tangible as physical objects and function instead as a field on which explorations of color, duration, and figure/ground play out.

Through a seemingly simple representation of flowers, Thater continues her longstanding inquiry into time and space, using nearly abstract imagery to question our understanding of visual and temporal perception,” notes Wexner Center curatorial assistant Katy M. Reis, who organized this exhibition.

Although discussions of technology and abstracted time and space often stand at the forefront of commentary about Thater’s work, environmentalism and conservation have also been a consistent theme in her art. Thater’s interest in conservation parallels that seen in the work of Alexis Rockman, whose exhibition A Fable for Tomorrow (organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum) will be opening in the Wexner Center galleries September 16. Rockman’s vividly expressive paintings acknowledge the potentially impending demise of our ecosystem. Like Thater, Rockman places enormous value on intense observation of the natural world. Both artists add an element of critique to their highly nuanced examinations of past and current beings in a time of accelerating change.

Diana Thater (b. 1962, San Francisco) received her BA in art history from New York University in 1984 and by 1990 had completed an MFA at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Since then, her work has been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh; and internationally at Kunsthalle Zurich in Switzerland, Kunsthaus Graz in Austria, and Kunstverein Hamburg in Germany. She has also participated in the biennials of Johannesburg, South Africa; Lyon, France; and Kwangju, South Korea. Her work can be found in collections including those of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Castello di Rivoli—Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Turin, Italy, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany.

With years of experience filming animals in their natural habitats and in captivity, Thater, who is based on Los Angeles, contributed her 2008 work RARE to the exhibition Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. A 16-monitor installation, the work documents many of the endangered species who inhabit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, where Thater filmed the footage in January 2007.

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