Bill Viola

Datesborn 1951
RolesArtist, Author
BornNew York, New York, United States

Whether traveling to remote deserts, looking at Old Master paintings, or focusing on family, Bill Viola infuses his art with a spiritually heightened awareness. His imagery is rooted in contemporary life, yet inspired by age-old religious philosophies and visual iconography. As one of the best-known video artists today, his vision has evolved along with the development of video.

In 1960 at age nine, Viola became captain of the T.V. Squad at school. Less than a decade later, he attended Syracuse University's then-experimental "new media" program, where he studied electronic music, video, and painting. As video preparator at Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse (one of the first institutions to make a commitment to video art) and as technical director of production at Art/Tapes/22, a video art studio in Florence, Italy, he met a number of groundbreaking video artists, including Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Beginning in 1976 Viola traveled extensively to Tunisia, Japan, and Australia (where he met his wife and collaborator, Kira Perov) to videotape and exhibit. With successive museum installations, he experimented with new techniques and viewing formats. Under pressure to create a new work for the 1995 Venice Biennale, Viola produced The Greeting, a contemporary interpretation of a painting from the 1500s by Pontormo. He used extreme slow motion to reveal nuances of expression and gesture, opening up new expressive territory. He continued in that vein during and after a 1998 guest scholar residency at the Getty Research Institute, producing works he collectively entitled The Passions. Viola's best-known videos from his career include The Passing, Nantes Triptych, The Reflecting Pool, The Crossing, Five Angels for the Millennium, and The Greeting. Viola lives and works in Long Beach, California.