The Whitney

Mark and Ken visited at various points this weekend. Ken led me to the Whitney Museum of American Art on Saturday afternoon. It was my first visit there. He wanted to see the Bill Viola exhibit, specifically. I wasn't familiar with Viola's work before, but after seeing Eve Sussman's hypnotic high definition video installation "89 Seconds at Alcazar" at MOMA, I had a newfound interest in video installations as an art form.

Viola's exhibit at the Whitney (purchased in 2002 with the Tate, London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris in a three-way partnership) was titled "Five Angels for the Millenium." On each of five screens in a darkened room, slow-motion video depicted images of angels flying up out of or down into pools of water. Slow-motion and reverse footage was employed in some shots to entrancing effect. It takes some patience to wait out each of the five angels; much of the time, the screens simply depict a dark pool of water, a few ripples reflecting colored light, or a few bubbles rising or falling. It also takes a while for your eyes to acclimate to the near total darkness in the room, so it's best to slow down once inside lest you nearly tackle some complete stranger as I did. I'm not sure what each of the angels represents, but the videos are mysterious and powerful, like a vision.

I also enjoyed the Tim Hawkinson exhibition. Many of his works examine his own body in unique ways, inspiring some new meditations on self, consciousness, and identity. "The Wall Chart of World History from Earliest Times to the Present" resembles a tub of intestines rendered in red ink as a tightly packed coil of spirals. "Signature" is an ingenious machine mounted on a school desk that continually signs the artist's name on a piece of paper before chopping it off and dropping it in a pile surrounding the desk. "The Emoter" is a mechanical face animated based on electrical readings from programming on television. Really fascinating body of work.

The Whitney admission prices are $12 for adults, $9.50 for students and seniors. Fridays from 6-9pm is pay-what-you-want admission.

Eve Sussman is now working on a video installation titled "Raptus," a modern recreation (set in Brooklyn) of the Jacques-Louis David painting "The Rape of the Sabine Women" (some images from the filming can be seen here).