Robert Wilson: Voom Portraits at Phillips de Pury
The press release for this vibrant, entertaining exhibit of video portraits gets all breathless about things like the "technical brilliance of the newest generation of television," and "the extraordinary potential of HDTV"... but, really? Though the images here are indeed remarkably crisp (as Debbie pointed out the next day, however, not really any more impressive than you can see in, say, the game department at Virgin), it's the people that make this show such a pleasure, both the celebrity subjects and, especially, the portraits' director, Robert Wilson.
Wilson's trademarks are in ample evidence here: minimal, slow, deliberate movements (he told his subjects "to think of nothing"); provocative costumes and unexpected music; and beautiful, brilliant lighting. The 30 or so videos have running times between 30 seconds and 20 minutes, and loop seamlessly; they are all presented on high-definition plasma flat-screen monitors, with surround sound; the gallery itself—Phillips de Prury, 450 15th Street—has been divided into many rooms, all totally dark except for the glow of the screens. The pieces are far enough apart that the music from one doesn't interfere with another, but as you wander from room to room, there are definitely a lot of strange melodies floating through the air. The overall effect is slightly mysterious, a little bit romantic, and very cool.
Among Debbie and my favorites here were Steve Buscemi, toe-tappin' behind a big hunk of meat; Robert Downey, Jr., as an anatomy class teaching aid; Princess Caroline, elegant in silhouette, gradually revealed with light; Brad Pitt, in his underwear, in the rain, armed and dangerous; an upside-down Marianne Faithful looking like a Saul Bass poster; Robin Wright Penn precariously perched and wind-blown; and William Pope L. as the King of... something, and his singing lamb. I liked the Porcupine, as well; though not so much the Dog (talk about "thinking of nothing!....").
The Voom Portraits (Voom is the HD company sponsoring the show) will be up through February 10.