A series of portraits of people underwater
The Dreamers /Seven channels of color High-Definition video on seven plasma displays mounted vertically on wall; four channels of stereo sound/Each screen: 61 ¼ x 36 3/8 x 5 in. (155.5 x 92.5 x 12.7 cm) /Room dimensions: 11 ft 6 in. x 21 ft 4 in. x 21 ft 4 in. (3.5 x 6.5 x 6.5 m) /Continuously running /Performers: Gleb Kaminer, Rebekah Rife, Mark Ofugi, Madison Corn, Sharon Ferguson, Christian Vincent, Katherine McKalip/Keith D. Stoltz © Bill Viola

Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait

November 18, 2016 - May 7, 2017

“Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait”—the National Portrait Gallery’s first exhibition entirely devoted to media art—offers a new interpretation of the work of the pioneering video artist as a career-long experimentation with portraiture. Viola (born 1951) has long been recognized for his groundbreaking and masterful use of video technologies, creating poetic works that explore the spiritual and perceptual side of human experience and search for a deeper understanding of the world around us. From the moment Viola picked up the Portapak camera in the early 1970s, he realized that video would be his lifelong medium of expression.

Although Viola’s work has been the subject of numerous surveys, it has not been considered in terms of its sustained engagement with—indeed, reshaping of—the genre of portraiture. As the works in this exhibition reveal, Viola’s technological investigations rely on the language of the face and body, encouraging self-reflection as well as expressing the universality of our experiences and articulating metaphysical issues about our place in the world. No other artist has pressed us to confront these questions in such elegant, humanistic terms.

“Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait” not only sheds light on forty years of artistry but also the ways that portraiture extends beyond likeness. The exhibition invites visitors to embark on a journey, one that begins with Viola’s raw and unnerving self-portraits and moves through some of the most poignant portrayals of the human life cycle. Ultimately, it opens our eyes to the way in which emerging technologies draw out our perpetual impulses toward self-representation and collective contemplation, and asks us to reimagine what we know about portraiture.

  • Group of people waiting patiently on a platform.

    The Raft / Bill Viola (born 1951) / 2004, Color High-Definition video projection on wall in darkened space; 5.1 ch surround sound / Projected image size: 156 x 88 in. (396.2 x 223 cm) / 10:33 minutes / Bill Viola Studio

  • Groupl of people being sprayed with powerful hose of water.

    The Raft / Bill Viola (born 1951) / 2004, Color High-Definition video projection on wall in darkened space; 5.1 ch surround sound / Projected image size: 156 x 88 in. (396.2 x 223 cm) / 10:33 minutes / Bill Viola Studio

  • Groupl of people being sprayed with powerful hoses of water from several angles

    The Raft / Bill Viola (born 1951) / 2004, Color High-Definition video projection on wall in darkened space; 5.1 ch surround sound / Projected image size: 156 x 88 in. (396.2 x 223 cm) / 10:33 minutes / Bill Viola Studio

  • Group of people recovering from being hit with a powerful spray of water

    The Raft / Bill Viola (born 1951) / 2004, Color High-Definition video projection on wall in darkened space; 5.1 ch surround sound / Projected image size: 156 x 88 in. (396.2 x 223 cm) / 10:33 minutes / Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola brochure cover

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