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Electronic Renaissance

Alex Park

Palazzo Strozzi is presenting the exhibition Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance from March 10 to July 23.
Curated by Palazzo Strozzi’s director Arturo Galansino and Bill Viola Studio’s executive director Kira Perov, Electronic Renaissance reviews Viola’s career, marked by a combination of technological research and aesthetic reflection, from his 1970’s early video experiments to his large installations of the 2010s famous for their impact on the senses.
Born in New York in 1951, Viola is an unchallenged master of video art whose fame is rooted in his productions of video installation, sound environments, and performances, which offers a profound immersion in space, image, and sound. His art explores the spirituality, experience and perception of mankind by understanding bodies that interact with forces of nature such as water and fire, light and dark, and the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

The Renaissance context of Palazzo Strozzi fuels a ‘dialogue’ between the classic and the contemporary through the juxtaposition of Viola’s work with masterpieces of the past that have inspired Viola and marked the development of his style.
The exhibits is also an opportunity for the artist to return to his roots. In fact, it was in Florence that Viola developed his career as a video artist at the Art/Tapes/22, a center for video production and documentation, active in Florence from 1974 to 1976 under the direction of Maria Gloria Conti Bicocchi.
“I am very happy to be returning to my Italian roots and to have this amazing opportunity to repay my debt to the great city of Florence with an offering of my work. Living and working in Florence in the 1970s, I never thought I would have the honor to show in such a distinguished institution as the Palazzo Strozzi,” said Viola in a recent interview.
Palazzo Strozzi will also extend the experience of the exhibition to other locations in Florence and Tuscany thanks to partnerships with other museums and venues such as the Uffizi Gallery, the Santa Maria Novella Church Museum in Florence, the St. Andrea Church Museum in Empoli, and the Great Museum of Florence Dome Museo, where visitors can purchase a combined ticket to visit the Palazzo Strozzi exhibit together with the Baptistry of San Giovanni and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The latter will be hosting Bill Viola’s Observance (2002) and Acceptance (2008), on display to create a ‘dialogue’ with two of the museum’s iconic masterpieces: Donatello’s Penitent Magdalen and Michelangelo’s Bandini Pietà.

Internationally recognized as one of the leading artists of our time, Viola has created a wide range of media works that are displayed in major museums throughout the world. His ideas focus on universal human experiences–birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness–and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Viola represented the US at the Venice Biennale in 1995. Other key solo exhibitions include; Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art (1997); The Passions at the J.Paul Getty Museum (2003); Hatsu-Yume (First Dream) at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo in 2006; Bill Viola, visioni interiori at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 2008; and Bill Viola, Grand Palais, Paris 2014. Two major installations, Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) (2014), and Mary (2016) are permanently on view at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on loan from Tate.

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