Skip to content

Installation Views

Installation Views Thumbnails
Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson

Press Release

NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to announce VOOM Portraits, an exhibition of video portraits by the celebrated theater director and artist Robert Wilson, on view from January 13 through February 3, 2007. The exhibition is in cooperation with VOOM Portraits – Robert Wilson, on view at the Phillips de Pury galleries in New York from January 17 through February 14.

Robert Wilson’s new portraits are staged tableaux of artists, musicians, actors and other personalities, presented on high-definition flat screens. The sitters are captured in near-motionless poses, instructed by Wilson to “think of nothing” and limit their gestures to one or two movements in very slow motion. Wilson’s new portraits also include a series of animals: Briard dogs, South American horned frogs, black panthers, snow owls, and porcupines, all captured in near immobility. The portraits manifest Wilson’s acclaimed sense of color and light, and draw upon his interests in theater, design, music, cinema, and performance.

Wilson collaborates with his human subjects to develop costumes and settings that hark back to past works of art, history or popular culture. The exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery will include a large portrait of Winona Ryder as Winnie, the main female character in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. Buried up to her neck in a mound of sand, Winona/Winnie gazes in the distance. As the sun rises and sets above her, some of Winnie’s accessories in the play (a toothbrush, a handbag and a gun) progressively become visible and invisible again. The gallery will also present an installation of snow owl portraits, which Wilson filmed in front of a vibrant polka-dotted background.

Wilson describes the portraits, “I think these works can be seen in numerous ways. They can be seen in museum spaces. They can be seen in subway stops. They can be seen in places where people are queuing in airports. They could be on the face of a wristwatch. They could be on TV. They could be an image in your home. They can be hanging on a wall. They could be in a fireplace—the way we have a fire. On a wall at home, they can be like a window—a window that shows us another world. It’s something very personal. It’s a document of our time. They are what I call portraits.”

The project was commissioned and produced by VOOM HD Networks, which also provided the HD screens for this exhibition. VOOM is a pioneer in high definition television, offering a collection of 15 commercial-free HD channels, available nationally on the DISH satellite network. Among these is Gallery HD, a channel entirely devoted to the arts. In recent months, the company has also begun to launch HD channels internationally. In 2004, VOOM named Robert Wilson an Artist-in-Residence to develop a project which would showcase the aesthetic and technical brilliance of the emerging HDTV medium. VOOM PORTRAITS are the results of Wilson’s creative endeavors in this medium to date.

The New York Times described Robert Wilson as “a towering figure in the world of experimental theater.” Wilson’s works integrate a wide variety of artistic media, combining movement, dance, lighting, furniture design, sculpture, music and text into a unified whole. His images are aesthetically striking and emotionally charged, and his productions have earned the acclaim of audiences and critics worldwide. Wilson’s awards and honors include two Guggenheim Fellowship awards (‘71 and ‘80), the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship award (‘75), the nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (‘86), the Golden Lion for sculpture from the Venice Biennale (‘93), the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for lifetime achievement (‘96), the Premio Europa award from Taormina Arte (‘97), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (‘00), the_ National Design Award_ for lifetime achievement (‘01), and Commandeur des arts et des letters (‘02).

A native of Waco, Texas, Wilson was educated at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Soon thereafter Wilson set to work with his Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and together with this school developed his first signature works including King of Spain(‘69), Deafman Glance (‘70), The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (‘73), and A Letter for Queen Victoria (‘74). Regarded as a leader in Manhattan’s burgeoning avant-garde, Wilson turned his attention to large-scale opera and, with Philip Glass, created the monumental Einstein on the Beach (‘76) which achieved world-wide acclaim and altered conventional notions of a moribund form.

After Einstein Wilson worked increasingly with European theaters and opera houses. In collaboration with internationally renowned writers and performers, Wilson created landmark original works that were featured regularly at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, and the Salzburg Festival. He has also applied his striking formal language to the operatic repertoire including Parsifal in Hamburg (‘91) and Houston (‘92), The Magic Flute (‘91), Madame Butterfly (‘93), Lohengrin at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (‘98). Wilson recently completed an entirely new production, based on an epic poem from Indonesia, entitled I La Galigo, which toured extensively and appeared at the Lincoln Center Festival in the summer of 2005.

Wilson’s practice is firmly rooted in the fine arts and his drawings, furniture designs, and installations have been shown in museums and galleries internationally. Extensive retrospectives have been presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He has presented installations at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, London’s Clink Street Vaults and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. His extraordinary tribute to Isamu Noguchi has been exhibited most recently at the Seattle Art Museum and his installation of the Guggenheim’s Giorgio Armani retrospective traveled to London, Rome and Tokyo.

Each summer Wilson decamps to the Watermill Center in eastern Long Island—a laboratory for the arts and humanities—which brings together students and experienced professionals in a multi-disciplinary environment dedicated to creative collaboration.

For more information, please contact the gallery: (212) 255-1105 or