Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image, the dynamic exhibition of time-based media has been reinstalled, with new examples of video art that span the last fifty years. It has its own dedicated gallery on the third floor of the museum and is a welcoming space filled with works that fascinate, stimulate, and resonate. "I'm really excited about Watch This! continuing in these permanent collection galleries. It's an opportunity to explore and to represent the art of the moving image. That's what this is a celebration of," according to John Hanhardt, senior curator of media arts at American Art, who put together the exhibition.
"It continues a conversation between artworks of different periods and different media treating different and related issues, so for the viewer it becomes a process of discovery," adds Hanhardt. And in the case of artist Peter Campus, there's a dialogue between an earlier work, Three Transitions from 1973, and Barn at North Fork, from 2010. What a difference a few decades can make. The earlier work is a single-channel video, while the Barn at North Fork is a high-definition digital video. "Where Three Transitions looks at self-portrait and skin and how to represent the body," Hanhardt says, "the new work looks at the surface of architectural structures and how that structure can be rendered abstract. It's painterly but medium-specific. It changes subtly in time. It's an evocative, lyrical piece. Having both works by Campus in the exhibition is a wonderful way to see how artists continue to challenge themselves and explore."
A few other works in the show look at landscapes, such as Swamp by Robert Smithson (of the famed Spiral Jetty) and Nancy Holt, who move through a landscape in the pine barrens of New Jersey. That's juxtaposed with Ernie Gehr's Surveillance from 2010, a meditation on Madison Square Park in New York City. It's a four-channel work. Gehr reframes a particular spot, surface, and movement, and explores different points of view, including aerial views. "What art does is give us new ways to see the world around us, and that's what Gehr is doing," says Hanhardt, "just the way Peter Campus showed us new ways to see ourselves in Three Transitions."
Other highlights of the exhibition include Bruce Nauman's Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk) from 1968, a black and white video where Nauman explores his gestures and movements as a tribute to the famed Irish author; and David Haxton's painterly and poetic Painting Room Lights, from 1983. Haxton constructs illusionary objects out of string, paints them, cuts them, and then they disappear.
"The exhibition is about how we see ourselves in the spaces around us," says Hanhardt, "and how the camera can be directed to reshape our bodies, our perceptions of ourselves, and the natural and built environment we live in."
Over the next few months, Eye Level will take a closer look at selected objects in the exhibition.