The New York Times described Robert Wilson as “a towering figure in the world of experimental theater and an explorer in the uses of time and space on stage.” Born in Waco, Texas, Wilson is among the world’s foremost theater and visual artists. His works for the stage unconventionally integrate a wide variety of artistic media, including dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music and text. His images are aesthetically striking and emotionally charged, and his productions have earned the acclaim of audiences and critics worldwide. After being educated at the University of Texas and Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Wilson founded the New York-based performance collective “The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds” in the mid-1960s, and developed his first signature works, including Deafman Glance (1970) and A Letter for Queen Victoria (1974-1975). With Philip Glass he wrote the seminal opera Einstein on the Beach (1976).
Robert Wilson’s Video Portraits are works of theater in miniature designed for Ultra High Definition video screens. For Wilson, video presents a canvas for experimentation in lighting, costume, make up, choreography, gesture, text, voice, set design, and narrative; epic theater adapted for an intimate encounter with both subject and audience. Wilson’s video portraits draw on the lighting techniques of early cinema, references to classical paintings and portraiture, television, photography, “light and space” art, and contemporary visual culture. Each work is durational and directed without linear narrative, portraying a theatrical atmosphere of its own.
Wilson has created video portraits of Princess Caroline, Isabella Rossellini, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Marianne Faithfull, Mikhai Baryshnikov, Renee Fleming, Farah Pahlavi, Isabelle Huppert, Sean Penn, Willen Dafoe, and others. His series of video portraits of Lady Gaga premiered at Mr. Wilson’s solo exhibition “Living Rooms” at the Louvre in 2013.
Selected Visual Arts Exhibitions
While known for creating highly acclaimed theatrical pieces, Wilson's work is firmly rooted in the fine arts. His drawings, paintings and sculptures have been presented around the world in hundreds of solo and group showings. Major Wilson exhibitions have appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1991); the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1991); the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston (1991); and the Instituto de Valencia de Arte Moderno (1992). Wilson has created original installations for the Museum Boymansvan Beuningen, Rotterdam (1993); London’s Clink Street Vaults (1995); Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (1997); Guggenheim Museum (2000); Museum of Art and Design Copenhagen (2000); Passionsfestspiele Oberammergau and Mass. MOCA (2000-2001); Vitra Design Museum in Weil, Germany (2001); the Parisian Galeries Lafayette (2002); Barbier- Mueller Museum for Precolumbian Art in Barcelona (2004); the Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent Foundation (2004); Aichi World Exhibition Nagoya (2005); Oerol Festival (2008); Norsk Teknisk Museum Oslo (2011); Norfolk and Norwich Festival (2012); Kunstfest Weimar (2012); Minneapolis Institute of Art (2018); Max Ernst Museum Brühl (2018).
His tribute to Isamu Noguchi has been shown at Vitra Museum (2001), the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (2002), the Rotterdam Kunsthal (2003), the Noguchi Garden Museum in New York (2004), the Seattle Art Museum (2006) and the L.A.- based Japanese American National Museum (2006). His installation of the Guggenheim’s Giorgio Armani retrospective (2000) traveled to Bilbao, Berlin, London, Rome, Tokyo, Shanghai and Milan (from 2000 to 2007). For the Louvre Museum in Paris, Wilson curated and designed the exhibit “Living Rooms,” featuring around 700 artworks from his Watermill Collection (2013).
In 2004 Robert Wilson started his Video Portraits, a series of HD video works on subjects that include celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt, Winona Ryder, Alan Cumming, Jeanne Moreau, Johnny Depp, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Renee Fleming, Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr. as well as a variety of animals (the Snowy Owl “KOOL”, a black panther, a porcupine etc.). These works have been shown in more than 50 exhibitions worldwide, including at MoMa PS1, Paula Cooper Gallery and Phillips de Pury & Co. in New York, Ace Gallery Los Angeles, Kunsthalle Hamburg, ZKM Karlsruhe, Academy of the Arts Berlin, Museum of Modern Art Salzburg, Times Square New York, Palazzo Madama Torino, the University of Toronto’s Art Center, and the Louvre Museum in Paris.
His drawings, prints, videos and sculptures are held in private collections and museums throughout the world, notably The Metropolitan Museum of Art; MoMA; the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Vitra Design Museum; Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Menil Foundation Collection, Houston.