The Projected Image in American Art, 1964 - 1977. The first show to reconstruct classic early works, many in the original film loop format (like Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris), and most not seen, even by the artists themselves, since the late 60s and early 70s. The projected image has become a prominent feature of contemporary art.
The Projected Image in American Art, 1964 - 1977.
The first show to reconstruct classic early works, many in the original film loop format (like Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris), and most not seen, even by the artists themselves, since the late 60s and early 70s. The projected image has become a prominent feature of contemporary art.
The incorporation of large-scale moving images by artists into installations has a rich history, which, due to the ephemeral nature of the original artworks, is known more by reputation than through actual experience. Into the Light is the first museum exhibition to explore this history, re-constructing a number of classic works in film, video and slide installation from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s, a decade which produced some of the most significant moving image installations in the history of modern art.
Informed by Process and Conceptual art, the phenomenology of Minimalism, experimental film, and performance's inclusion of the viewer as an actively participating presence, projected installations created a new language of artmaking, centred around an exploration of physical and psychological space. In Bruce Nauman's film installation Spinning Spheres (1970), the viewer's perception of space is disorientated by giant, reflective steel spheres spinning on all four walls of the gallery. After three minutes, each sphere slows to a halt. Its shiny metallic surface, like a concave mirror, reflects an image of a stable space similar to that occupied by the viewer, in which Nauman, film camera pointed towards the viewer, briefly appears, before the spinning resumes. This alternation between stable and disorienting environments creates a split in our perception of 'real' and projected space.
The combination of formal architectural and psychological elements in Nauman's installation can also be found in Dennis Oppenheim's Echo (1973), in which four black and white projections of a hand slapping a wall fill the space with reverberating echoes, creating a syncopated rhythm evoking the work of composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Oppenheim's physical engagement with the gallery walls also suggests a state of psychological anxiety, transforming the environment from a static viewing space into an active experiential field.
Like Nauman and Oppenheim, many of the other installations in the exhibition are created through filmed actions. In Dan Graham's double projection Helix / Spiral (1973), a performer, standing in an empty Soho lot, slides the back of a camera across her body in a helix - shaped movement, filming a second performer, the artist Jeff Wall. In a projection on the opposite wall, he is seen filming the first performer, moving in a spiral towards her. The helix/spiral camerawork of both performers splits the cinematic image into two vertical and horizontal movements, in which the body's relationship to space is explored through the physical apparatus of the camera.
The creation of an image through action also occurs in Simone Forti's Untitled installation of 1977. A holographic image of Forti dancing is activated by the viewer's movement around the outside surface of a transparent plexiglas circle, which is placed on a simple orange-box and lit from underneath by a candle. Like the pre-cinematic structure of the zootrope, the image comes into being through circular movements, here made by the viewer , who 'performs' the work.
References to cinema recur in many of the installations in the exhibition, anticipating the widespread engagement with cinema by the current generation of younger artists. Some of these re-constructed installations demonstrate the first attempts to separate the cinematic image from the conventional single screen, constructing new readings of narrative and space. In Michael Snow's Two Sides to Every Story (1974), two films are projected onto either side of a large metal screen, suspended high above the viewer's head in the center of the gallery. The resulting split narrative is only fully readable when the viewer moves between one side of the screen and the other, creating a spatial and temporal rupture of the cinematic image which reappears in many subsequent installations, including those by Douglas Gordon, Bill Viola and Stan Douglas. Andy Warhol's film Lupe (1965) creates a similar split, here contained within the plane of a single, wide screen. The resulting interplay of narrative, as Warhol's star Edie Sedgewick plays out the drama of a Hollywood star's scandalous suicide, evokes recent double projection narrative pieces by artists such as Sam Taylor-Wood.
Both Paul Sharits and Anthony McCall similarly dismantle the language of cinema, re-presenting the moving image in terms of painting and sculpture respectively. In Sharits' double screen film installation Shutter Interface (1975), areas of bright pink, yellow, green, blue, violet and orange flicker on two overlapping screens in a schematic sequence, evoking the meditative abstraction of color field painting. In Anthony McCall's film Line Describing a Cone (1973) the subject is not the film image (the drawing of a circle) but the projector's light beam, which is made visible by filling the gallery with theatrical smoke. The beam begins as a thin line of light. As the circle is drawn, the beam becomes three dimensional, forming a large cone of light which bisects the space. Viewers interact with the cone as it takes shape, walking into it, lying under it, or moving through it. The medium of film is made both sculptural and performative, as the viewer, once again, becomes part of the piece.
These installations were made during a period in the 1970s which saw a widespread rejection of the traditional methods and hierarchies of drawing, sculpture, painting and film. Just as the parameters of sculpture were being redefined in temporal terms, Joan Jonas inscribed sculptural space through combining video and film with performance and drawing. Jonas's performance Mirage (1976) explored issues of the body, ritual, identity and space, projecting film and video images alongside live action. In this re-presentation of the performance material, a black and white film shows Jonas excecuting a series of large, abstract chalk drawings, which are repeatedly erased, like the ancient ritual sand markings by which they were influenced. In another section of the film, a video monitor's vertical hold is filmed on its side, punctuating Jonas's image as it moves across the film screen from left to right, in a simple movement which evoke the photographic motion studies of Edweard Muybridge. This material will receive its first American museum showing since the original performance of Mirage.
Several of the works deal with physical space through the monitor and the closed-circuit camera. Yoko Ono's Sky TV (1966) is one of the earliest examples of video sculpture. A camera is placed on the outside wall of the museum, relaying live images of the sky to a television monitor in the gallery. Ono's piece anticipates the self-reflexive video installation works of the later 1960s, and reflects her Fluxus-inflected, conceptual approach to video. Significantly, the camera is aimed not at the self, or at the viewer, but at the sky, implying that understanding can be achieved by considering an infinite world beyond the ego, or the hypnotic pull of commercial television.
A rarely seen large-scale projected work by Michael Heizer, pieces by Robert Whitman, Robert Morris, Peter Campus, Vito Acconci, Yoko Ono, Mary Lucier, Beryl Korot, William Anastasi and Keith Sonnier complete the group of works included in the exhibition, which is the largest presentation of re-constructed early film and video installations to date. The participatory nature of many of the works predicts the ubiquitous use of the projected and interactive image in contemporary art by a new generation of artists. It reveals, for the first time, the roots of this interactive, cinematic form in the hybridic experiments of the sixties and seventies, and demonstrates the continuing power of these early works to transform our understanding of narrative, the body, sculpture, and space.
The exhibition is curated by Chrissie Iles, curator of film and video at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays by Chrissie Iles and Thomas Zummer, and archival photographs and diagrams, as well as new photography of the reconstructed works.
Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964 - 1977
Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-6 pm
Friday 1-9 pm (6-9 pm pay-what-you-wish admission)
Saturday-Sunday 11 am-6 pm
Senior citizens (62 and over) and students with valid ID $8