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Robert Wilson. Robert Wilson: VOOM Portraits, 2006. All works commissioned and produced by VOOM HD. Left to right: Horned Frog, Johnny Depp, Kool (Snow Owl). Robert Wilson. Johnny Depp (detail), 2006. Commissioned and produced by VOOM HD. Robert Wilson. Kool (Snow Owl) (detail), 2006. Commissioned and produced by VOOM HD.
Robert Wilson. Robert Wilson: VOOM Portraits, 2006. All works commissioned and produced by VOOM HD. Left to right: Horned Frog, Johnny Depp, Kool (Snow Owl).
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Robert Wilson. Johnny Depp (detail), 2006. Commissioned and produced by VOOM HD.
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Robert Wilson. Kool (Snow Owl) (detail), 2006. Commissioned and produced by VOOM HD.
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Robert Wilson: VOOM Portraits

February 13, 2009–March 22, 2009

Opening Reception:
Friday, February 13th, 6:00-8:00 p.m.


VOOM PORTRAITS ROBERT WILSON is an exhibition of provocative high-definition video portraits by avant-garde artist Robert Wilson. These works were commissioned and produced by VOOM HD, a US-based television provider devoted to high-definition television channels. These portraits of people and animals are presented on large-scale HD plasma flat-screens, and include celebrities like Johnny Depp, Isabella Rossellini, and Brad Pitt, as well as a horned frog, snow owl, panting dog. In addition, each work is accompanied by an original musical score. These works are part of a larger series, totaling 153 unique artworks, which comprise the VOOM Portrait series.

The HD technology communicates Wilson's poetic ideas in high-definition state-of-the-art clarity. Producing each portrait takes months of development and the process includes set design, lighting, makeup and costumes. The dramatic and theatrical settings recall art history, popular culture, and are illustrated in stunning color.

An element of surprise is incorporated in each work with the use of movement. The subjects of these portraits are limited to one or two gestures—such as a blink or tap of the foot—that are delivered in a very controlled motion. On first glance, the viewer sees a static image, and a sudden movement in the picture turns the viewing experience into something completely different.

The last layer to Wilson's work is sound. Each work features an individual soundtrack from musicians including Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Bernard Hermann, Michael Galasso, and Big Black. The music is innovative and serves as another way these "still lives" become "real lives."

The underlying themes of Wilson's environments are often based upon theater and art history, adding a layer of poignancy to the portraits. In the case of the celebrity images, the juxtaposition of the star with the memory of a character in a play or historical figure creates clever and humorous vignettes that delve into the viewer's memory, addressing the role of fame and vanity in the context of contemporary culture. For example, the portrait of Johnny Depp shows the actor dressed in drag and posing as Marcel Duchamp's Rrose Sélavy. The portrait of Winona Ryder casts her as the character of Winnie from Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, silently envisioning the events of the play from sunrise to sunset.

These groundbreaking video portraits stand alone as a unique art form and illustrate Wilson's broad experience and skills as a seasoned artist. The portraits are a departure from contemporary photography and video art in that they are an intimate, alive, and engaging environment for the viewer. When asked about the ideas behind the images, Wilson states "They are personal, poetic statements of different personalities."

About Robert Wilson
An internationally acclaimed theatre icon of the world stage, Wilson's oeuvre spans from the ground-breaking Philip Glass opera, Einstein on the Beach (1976) and hip musical The Black Rider (William S. Burroughs and Tom Waits) to classic works of Shakespeare and Wagner operas. In addition to being an avant-garde stage director and playwright, Wilson has experience working as a choreographer, performer, painter, sculptor, video artist, and sound and lighting designer. Beginning in 2004, Wilson began working as an artist-in-residence for VOOM HD. Known for his theatrical productions, Wilson's use of HD technology has taken his skills of manipulating light and creating dramatic environments to the next level by creating works that are a cross between photography, film, literature and sound.

Robert Wilson's work has been exhibited at museums internationally, including the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; with retrospectives at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Lion award for sculpture at the 1993 Venice Biennale, first prize at the Biennial Internacional de São Paolo, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for lifetime achievement. Robert Wilson was born in 1941 in Waco, Texas and currently resides in New York City.