Since the early 1970s, Bill Viola (b. 1951) has used video as his artistic medium. He is at the forefront of this art form, which he uses to delve into perceptions of self and self-knowledge. He chooses as his subject universal themes and experiences that are common to all people. Such experiences as birth and death, individuality and society, spirituality, and the discovery of one’s own consciousness. These themes have been explored in Eastern and Western art throughout history, and are closely tied to the world’s varied spiritual traditions.
This banner features a still from Viola’s 1996 video The Crossing. The Crossing consists of two large video screens, each showing how the strong and violent forces of nature can consume and destroy man (one by fire, one by water). On one screen, flames rise up a man’s body until they completely consume the figure. On the other, a deluge of water falls heavily from above until the figure disappears in the flood. At the end of the video, the man has entirely disappeared, and only a few glowing flames and a few drops of water are left to remind us of what has taken place. The action then begins again, thus repeating itself over and over again in a cycle of purification, renewal, and destruction. Among his influences, Viola is greatly inspired by the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi. Rumi’s writing includes the following, which Viola took as inspiration for The Crossing “You have seen the kettle of thought boiling over, now consider the fire."
It is the image of the man (the artist himself) consumed by flames that is captured on this dramatic banner. The larger-than-life image shows him stepping out of the dark, black background and standing amidst the violent flames which rise to engulf him. The other side of this banner is black and features white text that reads “Bill Viola”, and the dates of the show “now through January 11, 1998/LACMA”. The logo of “VEBA” the exhibition sponsor, is in the lower left corner.
These banners were displayed around Los Angeles to promote the exhibition, Bill Viola at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from November 2, 1997 to January 11, 1998. The exhibition was also seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Frankfurt’s Museum fur Moderne Kunst, and The Art Institute of Chicago.
Bill Viola (b.1951) is widely recognized as one of the today’s leading video artists. He pioneered the art form, and for over three decades has been creating stimulating and thought-provoking video installations. To view these works is to be absorbed in Viola’s total environments of image and sound. Despite using state-of-the-art technologies as his media, the artist is none-the-less inspired by the past including the written works of 13th century Persian poet Rumi and the Renaissance frescoes of Italian artists Giotto and Luca Signorelli. Viola holds a BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University, and has worked and traveled in Italy, the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, Australia, and Japan.
Exhibition: Bill Viola
Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 96"
(88.9cm x 243.8cm)
Artist Bill Viola currently ranks among the top 30 on the ArtFact list of top 100 contemporary artists. His video works explore themes of birth, mortality, and death. 5 banners featuring a still of his video, "The Crossing" are available, capturing the moment of the video when the artist is engulfed in flames.