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Bill Viola (American, born 1951)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American video and sound installation artist. Viola was involved with video and electronic media while a student at Syracuse University, New York, in the early 1970s. His concentration on audio as well as visual mediation was influenced at this time by study with the composer David Tudor and the Composers Inside Electronic Group. His subsequent work was marked both by his use of innovative technology and by culturally diverse sources garnered from travels to the South Pacific and later to the Himalaya. In He Weeps for You (1976; Berlin, Neue N.G.), an installation shown at Documenta 6 in Kassel, Viola used a closed circuit television to include the viewer’s image, reflected in a water droplet, in a cycle of filming and projection that evinces the influence of Eastern philosophy through the use of new technology, creating an unaffected allegorical representation of human experience.

Viola’s approach became broader and less dependent on technological intervention in the early 1990s. The video installations Threshold (1992; see 1997–8 exh. cat., pp. 100–101), Heaven and Earth (1992; San Diego, CA, Mus. Contemp. A.) and the Nantes Triptych (London, Tate), all from 1992, present open-ended allegories in a semi-documentary form. Heaven and Earth shows two videos taken of a woman dying and another woman giving birth, the screens positioned so close that they reflect in one another. Viola’s entry for the 46th Venice Biennale continued this more broadly signifying approach: of a set of five works collectively titled Buried Secrets, the last, The Greeting (1995; Basle, Kstmus.), showed a slowed-down staged film of three women meeting, based on Jacopo da Pontormo’s Visitation (c1528–9; Carmignano, S Michele). With references to Renaissance painting, the minutely observed, coagulated moment becomes emblematic of a broader time-span of human experience.

John-Paul Stonard
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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