The American video and installation artist Bill Viola is one of the most popular artists in the world today. Significantly, at a time when an artist’s importance is often conferred by small groups of experts and cognoscenti, Viola’s rich imagery touches a nerve with large international audiences. His is an art of everyman; work that is profoundly spiritual and never afraid to make the big statement. That statement is often about human life and its relation to the universe, to the soul and human spirit, to nature and to death. Viola is one of those rare artists whose work makes us aware of our nature as human beings. He returns art to what were once its fundamental concerns and gives it a relevance to the emotional and spiritual lives of ordinary people. But despite his interest in ‘old-fashioned’ values, his art is also an art of our time. The work is produced with the most innovative, most modern of media: high speed film, high-definition video, sophisticated recording and relation of sound and image, are put to use in ways that challenge the intellectual and artistic traditions of the last one hundred and fifty years.
In this volume eminent critics examine the scope of the artist’s creations in an extensive appraisal of his work since the 1970s. Their themes include the relationship of Viola’s art to the religious traditions of both Asia and Europe, the use of space as metaphor within his installations, the use of sound in his work, and the impact of his exhibitions upon other artists. These essays demonstrate Viola’s uniqueness and importance as an artist of enduring, international reputation, and for the first time allow us to properly assess his place within art history.