Robert Wilson is an American theatre director who is also a performer, video artist, choreographer, painter, sculptor, and sound and lighting designer.Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021