HomePage Artists

b. 1951, USA

Bill Viola Biography

A pioneering artist who has worked with video and sound art since the 1970s, Bill Viola examines the constituents of human existence, from birth and death to experiences of the subliminal and spiritual.

Read More

The groundwork for Viola's long career as a video and sound artist was laid at Syracuse University, New York, where he studied visual art under Jack Nelson and electronic music under Franklin Morris, graduating with a BFA in 1973. From 1973 he began performing with experimental composer and pianist David Tudor in Tudor's Rainforest ensemble, later known as Composers Inside Electronics.

In 1974, Bill Viola lived for a year and a half in Florence, working as a technical director for the video art studio Art/Tapes/22. Two years later, he was approached by Kira Perov—then director of cultural activities for La Trobe University in Melbourne—to show his works. Viola and Perov later married, and began collaborating and travelling together.

In 1981, Viola produced Hatsu-Yume: a single-channel video that reflects his contemplations of Japan—where he had travelled on a U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Fellowship—and Japanese culture, as well as his interest in light's role in relation to water and life. The influence of Japanese art is also visible in early sound compositions by Viola, such as Hornpipes (1979–1982) and The Talking Drum (1982), both of which integrate electronic music and traditional instrumental Japanese music.

At the core of Viola's practice is a concern with human existence, often presented using slow motion and sounds that engage the viewer's senses. In The Crossing (1996), for example, the artist employs a two-sided screen to show a man being slowly drenched in water on one side, and in fire on the other, expressing the duality of creation and destruction. The ever-repeating cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is the subject of Going Forth By Day (2002): an installation consisting of five wall-projections.

Viola continues to pioneer new technologies, expanding his presence in the realm of video art. In 2007, he began developing The Night Journey, one of the first experimental art games. It traces a journey to enlightenment, featuring texts inspired by the writings of philosophers of various faiths. After being presented at such group shows as New Gameplay, Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul (2016), and ZKM_Gameplay, Goethe-Institut South Africa, Johannesburg (2015), the game was released for home players in 2018.

Over the course of his career, Viola has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions. Notable presentations include Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey: a travelling exhibition organised by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1997; Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance at Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2017), which brought together the artists' works from the 1970s to the present; and Bill Viola: A Retrospective at Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, in 2017.

Bill Viola Solo Exhibitions include:

Mirrors of the Unseen, La Pedrera, Barcelona (2020); Bill Viola | Michelangelo, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019); Life After Death, Stavanger Art Museum, Norway (2018); Bill Viola: Selected Work 1977–2014, Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art, Guangzhou (2017); Bill Viola and the Moving Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2016); Bill Viola, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2015).

Bill Viola Group Exhibitions include:

Shadow catchers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2020); The Bangkok Art Biennale, Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (2020); The Mesh, chi K11 art museum, Shanghai (2019); Organic Body—Fragile Body, Venice International Performance Art Week 2016, Palazzo Mora; 21st Century: Design after Design, XXI International Exhibition, Triennale di Milano, Milan (2016).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020

Bill Viola Featured Artworks

Lenny by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaLenny, 2008Color high-definition video on LCD panel 9:18 minutes
63 x 30.5 x 6.1 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Chris by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaChris, 2012Colour High-Definition video on a flat panel display mounted vertically on wall
122.9 x 69.9 x 7.2 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Silent Mountain by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaSilent Mountain, 200115 minutes (looped)
Eslite Gallery Contact Gallery
Two Women by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaTwo Women, 2008Color high-definition video on plasma display mounted on wall 9:56 minutes, 37" plasma screen
81.8 x 46 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Ancestors by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaAncestors, 2012Color High-Definition video on plasma display mounted vertically on wall, 21:41 minutes
160 x 93 x 10 cm
Tina Kim Gallery Contact Gallery
Ablutions by Bill Viola contemporary artwork
Bill ViolaAblutions, 2005Color video diptych on plasma display mounted vertically on wall, 7 min 1 sec
101.3 x 121.9 x 10.8 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery

Bill Viola Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Bill Viola, Bill Viola at Kukje Gallery, Seoul
Closed
5 March–3 May 2015 Bill Viola Kukje GallerySeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, We Love Video This Summer at Pace Gallery, Beijing
Closed
26 July–5 September 2014 Group Show We Love Video This Summer Pace GalleryBeijing

Bill Viola Represented By

Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul

Bill Viola In Ocula Magazine

The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 Ocula News The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 London, 8 July 2020

Despite numerous cancellations and postponements, several significant biennales in Europe and Asia will take place this year.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Jens Faurschou Ocula Conversation Jens Faurschou By Anna Dickie, New York

Instead of opening a gallery in New York where we would be just another gallery, I thought: let’s do it in Beijing where we can make a difference.

Fade out copy.
Read More

Bill Viola In Related Press

View All (14)
Bill Viola’s Videos Elevate the Commonplace Related Press Bill Viola’s Videos Elevate the Commonplace 8 August 2019, Hyperallergic

PHILADELPHIA — When we immerse ourselves in Bill Viola's videos, it is as if we are dipping into a pool that brings us into other realms of consciousness, and the water is the continual flow of time. I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like: The Art of Bill Viola, on view at the Barnes Foundation through September 15, starts with four works in...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Bill Viola launches experimental art game, a cryptic ‘explorable video’ Related Press Bill Viola launches experimental art game, a cryptic ‘explorable video’ 25 July 2018, Wallpaper*

It is one the first ever experimental art games ever made and for the past decade, Bill Viola's The Night Journey has been exhibited in venues around the world as a work in progress. Now, Bill Viola Studio and USC Game Innovation Lab have launched the award-winning game worldwide on Mac and Windows PC (and on PlayStation in the US), marking the...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Bill Viola: Installations at Deichtorhallen Hamburg Related Press Bill Viola: Installations at Deichtorhallen Hamburg 12 August 2017, Arte Fuse

The works of the California based artist, born in 1951, masterfully utilize sophisticated media technologies while exploring the spiritual and perceptual side of human experience, focusing on universal human themes − birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness − and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as their spiritual traditions....

Fade out copy.
Read More
Dark arts: Bill Viola retrospective marks the Guggenheim Bilbao’s 20th anniversary Related Press Dark arts: Bill Viola retrospective marks the Guggenheim Bilbao’s 20th anniversary 4 July 2017, Wallpaper*

When the Guggenheim Bilbao first opened its doors on 19 October 1997, it presented an ambitious 300-piece survey of 20th-century art. One such work was Bill Viola's The Messenger (1996), a looped video installation in which a naked man slowly materialises from a vat of electric blue water. Upon surfacing, he takes a breath, only to descend again...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Bill Viola In Video & Audio

Bill Viola Cameras are Soul Keepers Related Video & Audio Bill Viola Cameras are Soul Keepers 14 December 2017, Louisiana Channel

When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. 'There's more than just the surface of life.' Viola explains. 'The real things are under the surface'.

Fade out copy.
View More

Sign up to be notified when new artworks and exhibitions by Bill Viola are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;