Everyone, including UI President Sally Mason (above left) and Marc Moen (below left) and Bobby Jett (below right) enjoyed delicious food. The Moen Group/Hotel Vetro was a Bronze Sponsor of the VOOM PORTRAITS exhibition.Dessert!
Jack Piper of Atlas World Grill (left) and Alan Swanson (right), both a part of the Museum's Members Council, got the chance to chat with Robert Wilson (center) . Wilson with VOOM PORTRAITS Gold Sponsors Nancy and Craig Willis. Nancy Willis is the chair of the UIMA Advisory Committee.
Wilson meets UI President Sally Mason. Alan Swanson is in the middle.President Mason introduced Wilson with a few words about why the arts are important at the UI. Wilson spoke briefly about his time at the UI in the 1970s and his work on the VOOM PORTRAITS. Noah Khoshbin, Robert Wilson's producer and artistic collaborator, laughs at a joke.
Museum Director Howard Collinson chats with Dick Summerwill. Museum Director of Education Dale Fisher (right) with Gene Savin (left) and Susan Enzle (center). Finally, when the galleries opened at 8 p.m., everyone got their first glimpse at the exhibition.The show is up through March 30. Don't miss your chance to see it at the UI Museum of Art!
A couple weeks ago, Bob Wilson came to Eastern Iowa to give a talk and attend the opening of an exhibition of his VOOM Video Portraits at the University of Iowa, Museum of Art in Iowa City and at CSPS in Cedar Rapids.
He flew in from Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday evening and came straight to CSPS to oversee the installation of his work here. Although his producer/collaborator Noah Khoshbin, Matthew Shattuck of VOOM, and Joe Conway, had been laying out the show for several weeks and Noah had even flown to Europe to discuss the plan, there were some last minute changes that kept us busy all day Thursday darkening the galleries, and reinforcing walls to support the 200lb HD plasma video screens (65” diagonal.) Once we’d covered all the windows with lightweight plywood there were lots of light leaks and it’s a good thing the lights are off because the place is kept dark by miles of gaffers tape.
On Thursday evening, Bob gave a lecture with slides at EC Mabie Theater, where in 1970 Deafman Glance was first presented. The place was nearly full of students, teachers and the general public. RW didn’t disappoint and gave a nearly 2 hour-long master class in stage presence for actors; directing and writing tips for theater professionals; and anecdotes for the rest of us. He showed PowerPoint slides of his early productions and drew diagrams of them on an easel, paying particular attention to his Iowa connections. Reporters were there from the Des Moines Register and the Wall Street Journal, so you can probably get a critical view of the performance.
The next day, he returned to Cedar Rapids to have a “Conversation” with one of the directors of Legion Arts (Mel Andringa.) I tried to keep the conversation focused on Bob’s visual art, but it was quite as wide-ranging as Bob’s multidisciplinary interests. Sue Sheehy another ‘Byrd’ from the old days was in the audience and nicely chimed in her own two-bits when the subject turned to the time when Bob had a company of collaborators in New York. About 120 people attended and we received many compliments on the format and content of the discussion. (I fretted for days with the stage picture, two chairs like in ‘Stalin’, a tree stump for ‘Civil Wars’, and especially the lighting, as we all know Bob is impossible to match in that realm.)
A reception followed with wine and cheese and grapes, and Bob seemed genuinely impressed with the interests expressed about his work by our ‘Average Joe’ audience. There’s not much pretense at CSPS, and although the work was challenging to some it wasn’t intimidating and clear opinions were expressed. Two grown men who had been apes in ‘Deafman’ as children told Bob how that experience has been critical to their understanding of the potential of art. One mother wrote me the next day complaining that she was disappointed on behalf of her 14 year-old, with the number of works on display at CSPS, and Bob’s ‘monotone’ delivery. We went back and forth about what role her expectations played in her disappointment, and I think we came to understand each other’s positions without prejudice.
Then it was downstream again for an incredible buffet dinner with salmon, chicken and coconut ginger sauce, mushroom ragout on polenta, caviar and designer potato chips. Bob said a few words to the Museum’s donors about how when he first went to Paris the press thought that he was from Iowa because his press materials were full of references to his Iowa experience. As a result, he said he felt like the UI show was a homecoming. The installation in Iowa City has over 40 video screens and each one is given lots of space. Nearly the entire permanent collection has been put in storage for the duration and the lights are so low the fire marshal gave the installation extra attention. I have to say that it was very difficult to get an experience of the work at the opening with nearly 500 people attending. It’s hard to go through the exhibition with even one other person, as everyone’s attention span is different and the works don’t easily reward passing glances. They respond to study and patience, and they require a considerable investment of time. The guards must be challenged by the constant audio environment emanating from the pieces in the museum. I know there were times I missed the quiet respite from the outside world that the museum space usually provides. Those caveats aside, it’s a stunning, at times comic and moving show that is not to be missed.
Sue and John Herbert and I had the privilege of having Bob walk us through a few of the pieces and recount the story of their creation. By the end of the night, I was passing stories along to friends and people who wondered why I rated attention. Sue stayed the night at CSPS and the next day (Saturday, February 2nd) was her 67th birthday. But she couldn’t stay long as there was a snowstorm approaching and her sister who had generously driven two hours to pick her up wanted to get home before the worst of it. Pity, because no sooner did she get off than Bob showed up with a pot of pink azaleas for the birthday girl. We spent some time looking at a recent batch of jigsaw art in my studio and then he was off again.
Nearly 400 people came to CSPS in the first week of the exhibition, classes, audiences for music events and people who read about it in the paper saw the work and came away with an idea of the expanded boundaries portraiture in the 21st century may contain.
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As with almost all of his work, Robert Wilson’s approach to the creative treatment for the Voom Portraits is a synthesis of cultural histories and images. For instance, take the Princess Caroline Voom Portrait. The starting point for us with this portrait was her mother, Grace Kelly, and her mother's character Lisa Fremont, from the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rear Window.
A pivotal moment in this influential film occurs when Lisa, discovering a substantial clue to a murder in the form of a missing wedding ring, signals that fact to her boyfriend, photographer/voyeur L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, played by Jimmy Stewart.
With it's compact form, the lost ring as both a sign of the love lost between the husband and wife (in this case represented via a murder) and a sign of the future bond between Lisa and Jeff (the wedding ring) is pure Hitchcock. Does her pose as a seemingly guilty handcuffed trespasser in another's apartment give us Hitchcock's view of the constraints of relationships?
The unfolding lighting sequences on Princess Caroline's hands/ring, the upper arm and face, or just her black silhouette seem at the same time classical and tribal, vacillating between a portrait and landscape, reflecting both Sergeant and Hitchcock. With the added Bernard Hermann sound score from Vertigo the result is seminal Wilson.
-- Noah Khoshbin, Producer, Voom Portraits
Here another interesting blog entry about Robert Wilson:
Review of the film Absolute Wilson
* Thursday afternoon, Robert Wilson did interviews with members of the press. Look for articles in ArtScene, the Des Moines Register, and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as broadcasts on KCRG TV-9 and KGAN CBS-2 (with Cary J. Haun, the Iowa Traveler). Articles have already appeared in the Gazette, the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Daily Iowan, and on CorridorBuzz.com. Thanks also to Joe Jennison, executive director of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, for letting us guest blog on culturalcorridor.org, and for the shout out in last week's Corridor Business Journal.
* Thursday evening, Wilson performed at Mabie Theatre in the UI Theatre Building to a nearly full house of about 450 people. Though the performance was nearly two and a half hours long with a Q&A following, Wilson's stage presence kept the audience captivated. He began his performance by standing at the podium in silence for a long stretch of time, and later explained that as a performer, one must "make the audience come to you." It was truly a master class in stage presence, as well as a glimpse into Wilson's organizational methods for his artwork and theatrical direction. UITV taped the performance and will rebroadcast it, times TBD.
* Friday was another busy day at the Museum, with people in and out setting up for the opening event Friday night. That afternoon, a small crowd gathered for an intimate "Conversation" with Robert Wilson at CSPS in Cedar Rapids, and to see the four portraits on display (Robert Downey Jr., Lucinda Childs, Alan Cumming, and Byamba Ulambayar, the sumo wrestler). Mr. Wilson talked on stage with Legion Arts/CSPS Producing Director Mel Andringa, who worked with Wilson in the 1970s, and audience members were invited to ask questions.
* Nearly 500 people came to the Museum Friday evening for the VOOM PORTRAITS special opening event. At around 7:30, UI President Sally Mason introduced Mr. Wilson, who spoke briefly before the galleries opened at 8 p.m. The Museum bustled with activity as small groups gathered before each portrait, with a large group gathering to eat in the Sculpture Court beneath 11 Snow Owl portraits. It was a great evening -- Thanks to everyone who came out!
* Saturday the exhibition opened to the public, and nearly 300 people visited the Museum. About 200 more came on Sunday -- what a busy and exciting weekend! Many of those who visited Sunday heard Noah Khoshbin, Robert Wilson's producer and artistic collaborator, give a tour of the portraits and explain how they were made. A couple interesting facts I learned: The soundtrack for Marianne Faithfull's portraits sounds like a human choir of voices accompanied by crickets chirping, but in fact, the choir sound is produced by slowing the cricket chirps; The hunk of meat in Steve Buscemi's portraits is, in fact, a side of beef that they got from the butcher that day.