KATHRYN EARNHART | The Butlers Video artist Viola's exhibit opens
An exhibition by Bill Viola, the world's foremost video artist, opens today and continues through September in the Butler Institute's Beecher Center gallery in Youngstown.
Titled "Threshold," this extraordinary work is a video/sound display that includes current news scrolling across an electronic display sign. This lighted, moving sign updates world events.
The brightly illuminated text is intersected by a black open doorway which divides the moving sign in two, and which leads to a dark room. Inside this room, three black and white images of human faces, which were recorded while the people were sleeping, appear upon white walls.
The incredibly sensitive sounds of regular breathing can be heard in the darkness, and one of the figures unexpectedly shifts position but remains asleep.
Typical: The addition of human imagery resting beneath the incessant flow of worldly events in "Threshold" typifies the romantic vision that has set Viola's work above that of other video installation artists. Recognized as a pioneer of video art, Viola (born in 1951) began experimenting with the medium in 1970 as an undergraduate at Syracuse University. His early interest in sound and his collaboration with musician David Tudor, as well as the influence of the work of Nam June Paik and Peter Campus, spurred his artistic development. Ultimately, Viola's contributions helped define the new medium of video by expanding it visually with multiple-screen projections and with environments that allow the viewer to become an active part of the work.
When asked about the Institute's installation of Viola's work, Butler Director Dr. Louis Zona stated: "This exhibition represents yet another high water mark for the Butler.
Bill Viola has been called the most important artist in the world today by virtue of his enormous contribution in the area of new media. Threshold is a contemporary masterpiece."
While technological advances of the last 30 years are included in Viola's work, his individual spirituality and concern with social issues are always primary in his inventive works.
Although his recent works include the latest computer and digital imaging equipment requiring collaboration by the artist with technicians worldwide, Viola still serves as both director and editor for his films.
His other work: In 1995, Viola represented the United States at the Venice Biennale with the exhibition "Buried Secrets," gaining further recognition throughout the world. He is the recipient of a Getty Scholar's grant (1998), and his work was recently the subject of a comprehensive 25-year survey organized by the Whitney Museum in New York City. This exhibition was also seen in Amsterdam and Frankfurt, and in the United States at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Viola's work has also been seen at the ZKM/Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlscruhe, Germany, whose collection includes the major Viola works "The City of Man" (1989), another edition of "Threshold" (1992) and "Stations" (1994).
Other events: On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., the Butler will screen "American Visions: THE PROMISED LAND" hosted by Time magazine's art critic Robert Hughes. Other chapters of the American Visions saga will be screened on Wednesday, May 23 and 30 at 1:30 p.m., and on Wednesday, June 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 1:30 p.m. The American Visions series is courtesy of PBS 45/49.
Also on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Butler in Youngstown, Butler Director Dr. Louis Zona will present a gallery talk concerning this nation's art in the 1950s and 1960s -- two turbulent decades when American art came of age. Butler Wednesday programs are made possible by grants from National City Bank and Mr. and Mrs. William Clayman.
Each year, the Butler education department hosts a summer arts day camp for children with special needs. The generosity of individuals and corporations has made possible a number of scholarships for this program which combines the visual arts with dance, music and drama. For camp registration information or to volunteer for the camp call (330) 743-1107, extension 114. The Butler education department is also preparing its summer schedule of classes for children and adults. Call (330) 743-1711, ext. 117 for summer art class information.
XButler hours in Youngstown are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Butler hours at the Trumbull branch are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Butler Salem hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to all three branches is free.