The Bill Viola exhibition at the Grand Palais is a new initiative by this beautiful exhibition space to present more contemporary artists. This is the largest retrospective of the most highly regarded American video artist of our times Bill Viola. It showcases the artist’s work over the past 40 years in a series of large darkened rooms.
The exhibit is divided in three chapters: “Qui suis-je? (Who am I?), Où suis-je?(Where am I?), and Où vais-je? (Where am I going?).” The twenty high-tech works (from small LCD screens to life-size monitors and wall-size projections) draw on the themes of time that passes by, life and death, the visible and invisible, and afterlife.
Some of the works shown are: "The Greeting (1995)" a video inspired by a 16th century painting by Pontormo where Viola prolongs a shot of forty-five seconds into twelve minutes. “Four Hands” (2001) where four different pairs of hands clasp each other for 23 minutes. The exhibition also includes some of Mr. Viola’s best-known works such as “Catherine’s Room” (2001), and “The Sleep of Reason” (1988) in which flashes of a man’s nightmares are projected onto the gallery walls. In "Nine Attempts to Achieve Immortality (1996)", the artist holds his breath for as long as possible before the most basic instinct forces him to grasp for air.
The final rooms of the exhibition include the beautiful 2005 works “Tristan’s Ascension” in which the hero is swept upward in a lingering shower of raindrops and “Fire Woman” where a woman stands walking towards us behind a wall of fire. Water is a recurrent theme in Viola's work. Many of his works use water dropping slowly, cascading, or submerging his human subjects. The artists fascination with water came from a childhood memory he has of almost drowning. He described the near death experience as free from fear and offering a look into “the most beautiful world ever seen in life”. Another installation called "The Dreamers" (2013) shows people of all ages preserved underwater. In Ascension (2000), a body is forming a cross in blue water.
We highly recommend this exhibition. The show's darkness draws visitors in, and the slow paced videos forces viewers to slow down. We had to go to the exhibit twice to be able to see each video as they are between 10 to 20 minutes long, but we loved it.
March 5th to July 21st
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower
Open everyday 10am to 10pm, except tuesdays
Sunday and Monday from 10 am to 8 pm