The Quintet of the Astonished
The Quintet of the Astonished shows the unfolding expressions of five actors in such extreme slow motion that every minute detail of their changing facial expressions and movements can be detected. In this piece artist Bill Viola explores the cathartic power within grief, personal suffering, and bereavement.
Viola’s work often exhibits a painterly quality and The Quintet of the Astonished clearly references his interests in medieval and classical depictions of emotion. In 1998 while a scholar in residence at the Getty Research Institute which that year explored the theme of “The Passions”, Viola revisited images of medieval and renaissance painting, frescoes, and architecture that had influenced him during his time in Florence, Italy in 1974. Having lost both of his parents by the time he was at the Getty, he found himself drawn to images of devotional art that continue to influence his art today.
On October 14, 2010, the Urban Video Project, in conjunction with Light Work, the Connective Corridor, and the Everson Museum of Art, hosted a public presentation by artist Bill Viola and David Ross. According to Ross, “Bill Viola is that rare artist who employs extraordinary technical mastery in the service of a deeply metaphysical art. Exploring the essential human condition, Viola has long been engaged in the study of time, consciousness and the human spirit. Though not religious in any traditional sense, Viola’s art embraces the idea of art as a path to transcendent experience.”
Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For 40 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast.
Bill Viola received his BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University in 1973 where he studied visual art with Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.
Since the early 1970s Viola’s video art works have been seen all over the world, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin and the Guggenheim, New York; as well as representing the U.S. at the 46th Venice Biennale and a 25-year survey career survey at the Whitney Museum… among many others.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989, and the first Medienkunstpreis in 1993, presented jointly by Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, and Siemens Kulturprogramm, in Germany. He holds honorary doctorates from Syracuse University (1995), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1997), California Institute of the Arts (2000), and Royal College of Art, London (2004) among others, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. In 1998 Viola was invited to be a Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles and in 2009 received the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, MIT. In 2006 he was awarded Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. Bill Viola and Kira Perov, his wife and long-time collaborator, live and work in Long Beach, California.
The presentation, which was free and open to the public, was followed by a reception in the plaza adjoining the Everson Museum of Art, where the UVP screening of Quartet of the Astonished was playing. In conjunction with this event, the Everson also presented more works by Viola inside the building, piece which were curated from their permanent collection.
Viola’s work was on view at the UVP Everson from Sept. 1 – October 31, 2010.