b. 1941, USA

Robert Wilson Biography

Robert Wilson is an American theatre director who is also a performer, video artist, choreographer, painter, sculptor, and sound and lighting designer.

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A prolific, researcher, and designer of sets and furniture, Wilson is known for his creative collaborations with artists such as Tom Waits, Philip Glass, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lady Gaga, Willem Dafoe, and Lucinda Childs.

Early Years

Wilson's first few years of tertiary education were in business administration at the University of Texas, but he decided to go to New York's Pratt Institute to study architecture and painting. He furthered his study of architecture by working with Paolo Soleri in Arizona.

In New York in 1968 Wilson founded an experimental performance company, the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, directing two works before working on the opera Einstein on the Beach (1969) with composer Philip Glass and the dancer Lucinda Childs. In 1970 his 'silent' production Deafman Glance went to Nancy, France; Brooklyn; and then Paris, where it was admired by the Surrealist poet Louis Aragon and clothing designer Pierre Cardin.

Other early works include The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (1974) and various Japanese Noh plays.

Wilson is known to have many productions in several European cities over each year. Sometimes a production also tours to other venues. This prolific producer also often revives his old works, such as The Black Rider (1990) and The Temptation of St. Anthony (2003), and directs well-known operas like Madame Butterfly and popular works by Monteverdi or Wagner.

Experimental Theatre

Stylistically Robert Wilson's theatre productions can be called 'avantgarde'. They are often unusually long, slow in pace, visually austere, and with extreme scale. The precise details of the enunciation of spoken or sung language are extremely important—he is influenced by Gertrude Stein—as are the qualities and position of lighting, and the shape and mapping of movement.

Robert Wilson Artworks

Since 2004, Robert Wilson has produced dozens of 'Voom Portraits', a series of videos in which 153 personalities pose for the video camera in HD dark, saturated colour. The videos utilise very gradual movement, elemental materials like water or earth, modernist music, and subtly shifting light. Featured celebrities include Brad Smith, Winona Ryder, and Johnny Depp. In 1992 Wilson founded the Watermill Center as an institutional resource and laboratory in New York for performance art. It holds his extensive art collection and working archives from Wilson and his many collaborators.

In 2020 Wilson curated an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, which was held at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin.

Awards and Accolades

Wilson has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Goethe Medal for Lifetime Achievement Award from the Goethe Institut (2014), an honorary doctorate from La Sorbonne, Paris (2013), the Olivier Award for Best New Opera (2013), and the Golden Lion at the 45th Venice Biennale (1993). In 2014, Wilson was also awarded the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic.

Exhibitions

Robert Wilson has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.

Solo exhibitions include Robert Wilson: Moving Portraits, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2022); Kool [Snowy Owl], The Momentary, Bentonville (2021); Robert Wilson: Der Messias — Drawings, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2020); Robert Wilson: Video and Drawings, Bernier/Eliades, Brussels (2020); Design Miami 2019: A Boy From Texas, Miami Beach Convention Center (2019); Noah's Ark, Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2019); Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating, AD&A Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Museum of Art (2014); Robert Wilson: Video Portraits, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin (2010); Robert Wilson: Voom Portraits, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2007).

Group exhibitions include Transforming Archives, Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2021); Opera as the World, Centre Pompidou Metz (2019); Le Violon d'Ingres, Villa Medici, French Academy in Rome (2018); American Masters, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2018).

Website and Instagram

Wilson's website can be found here, and his Instagram here.

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021

Exhibition view: Robert Wilson, DORIAN and THE DAYS BEFORE: death, destruction and detroit III, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Düsseldorf (11 June–23 July 2022). Courtesy Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art.

Robert Wilson Featured Artworks

View All (24)
Father's Chair 022 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 022, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 011 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 011, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 014 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 014, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 009 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 009, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 001 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 001, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 002 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 002, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Father's Chair 003 by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Robert Wilson Father's Chair 003, 2022 Graphite on paper
35 x 50 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Steve Buscemi by Robert Wilson contemporary artwork moving image
Robert Wilson Steve Buscemi, 2004 Plasma screen, custom speaker, HD media player 65 inch monitor
Galerie Thomas Schulte Contact Gallery

Robert Wilson Current Exhibitions

Robert Wilson Represented By

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