After a summer spent sending visitors through the burial tombs of Ancient Egypt, Philbrook Museum is now traveling 5,000 years ahead to modern times for a highly contemporary and innovative exhibit featuring five video installations by four working artists. The exhibit's title, Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation, speaks to the way in which all four artists created their work by reinterpreting or adapting the original source of their inspiration.
Inspiration ranged from musical composition to film to painting. Adaptation opened to the public on Oct. 17 and will run through Jan. 9, 2011. Stephanie Smith, chief curator from the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, originally organized the exhibition. The exhibition began in Chicago and has since traveled to Seattle and Indianapolis before making its final stop in Tulsa.
Tulsa is doing its best to not only remain aware of what is happening among today's most-forward-thinking artists, but also bring these avant-garde ideas and works to the city for Tulsans to experience first hand.
Philbrook finds itself among the mix of galleries and organizations in Tulsa dedicated to promoting a healthy interest in artists that are constantly redefining what art is and how it can be expressed. Adaptation not only exposes what is on the minds of contemporary video artists but exemplifies the museum's ambition to be a diverse art institution with something for everyone.
As visitors enter the Helmerich Gallery, they will be greeted with an introduction to the exhibition as well as a statement about video art, what it is and why it is the best term to describe the four artists in the exhibition, whether or not the artists truly classify themselves as video artists.
The work of University of Chicago professor Catherine Sullivan is first of the five installations spread out through the gallery. Sullivan's work, titled, Triangle of Need, is a multi-channel video installation displaying three different yet related films shot and directed by Sullivan with 16 mm film. The three screens intertwine the disorienting storylines with Sullivan's cast of unusual characters, including modern day Neanderthals as well as "Mr. Obi," Sullivan's interpretation of a Nigerina scam artist, famed for emailing strangers requesting an unclaimed money wire. The effect of this disorienting fifty-three minute film is similar to the stream of conscious one might remember from a dream. Sullivan's work dramatizes many "what if" scenarios that have served as her inspiration for the installation.
Guy Ben-Ner is an Israli born video artist featuring two short home-spun films with plots loosely adapted from the films Moby Dick and L'Enfant savage (The Wild Child). Ben-Ner unashamedly brings his own domestic landscape into his films by shooting them in his house, often casting his own children as the characters. The films have a playful, even slap-stick humor that exposes issues he faces himself, often on the subject of fatherhood as well as the emotions all artists struggle with during the process of creating work. In Wild Boy, his adaptation of François Truffaut's L'Enfant savage, Ben-Ner creates an eight minute short film that playfully spoofs the concept of wild vs. civilized through staged interactions with his children. In his other film, Ben-Ner adapts the classic Moby Dick into a 12-minute short referencing silent films while reenacting bits and pieces of scenes from the original text. By keeping his films short and fast paced, he is also able to reflect upon the fast paced nature of our culture and short attention spans.
Born in Venezuela, Arturo Herrera is a University of Tulsa alumnus who has developed a highly respectable career as a visual artist making work that includes painting, drawing, collage, sculpture and photography. In this exhibition, Herrera presents his first video installation with a piece titled Les Noces. Herrera is deeply inspired by modern abstract art, as well as dance and music and allows his reverence for these mediums to take form in this work. In this installation, visitors enter a room with images projected on opposing sides of the theater. A computer software program randomly flashes fragmented images of Herrera's own drawings and paintings set to the musical score, Les Noces (The Wedding) by Igor Stravinsky. The effect is strong as the opposing screens reference the notion of marriage, or duality, as they perform at random for the viewer.
The final film in the gallery is by Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation, titled The Rape of the Sabine Women. Her work retells the epic story associated with Rome's creation that has been visually retold by artists throughout history such as Jacques Louis David, Nicolis Poussin and Pablo Picasso. Dually inspired by David's idealized painting, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, Sussman and the Rufus Corporation created a feature length film divided into five acts retelling the classic story in a 1960's chic international setting. "The film is made up of many dramatic idealized moments seamlessly strung together in moving pictures," said the Philbrook's Chieft Curator, Catherine Whitney.
"Almost all art is an adaptation," Whitney said. To complement the exhibition and enrich visitors understanding regarding the concept of adaptation in art there will be an Education Resource Center situated just outside of the Helmerich Gallery with original source material that inspired the works in the gallery as well as literature that breaks down the theme of adaptation. To further expand upon this topic, four curators will lecture at the museum in December on the idea of "Everything as an Adaption."
More information is available at philbrook.org.
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