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Still lifes of the rich and famous

February 18, 2007|Diane Haithman

MORE than a few defected at intermission, some even sooner -- but audience members who lasted through the glacial pacing of Robert Wilson's "Black Rider" last April at the Ahmanson Theatre may appreciate the avant-garde stage director's foray into an art form that moves even more slowly: the Voom Portraits.

Even without the "va-va-va-," the syllable "voom" suggests speed. Instead, the Voom Portraits -- which Wilson created as an artist-in-residence for Voom HD Networks -- are high-definition videos that appear at first glance to be still portraits, but they come to life when the sitters perform a simple action such as blinking an eye or tapping a foot.

The exhibition, which opens Saturday at Ace Gallery Los Angeles, its second stop on a world tour, features celebrity subjects including Brad Pitt (who threatened to sue when the portrait, which showed him dripping wet in white boxers and holding a gun, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair), Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, Steve Buscemi and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The collection also includes a champion sumo wrestler, an auto mechanic and various animals, among them a porcupine and a South American horned frog.

"I have been thinking about this project since the '70s, when I first worked in video," says Wilson via e-mail. "Much of what I wanted to do was simply impossible before HD. Once I saw what was possible in HD, I knew it was very much appropriate for my work. All my work, in all media, is carefully detailed and very precise."

"It is also interesting to realize the Voom Portraits with the time and space of TV in mind, which is very different from the time and space of theater. TV is about close-ups. The theater is more about distant images.

"These are images people can see in passing, not necessarily in a dark room. They are like paintings on the wall or a fire in a fireplace, a still life that becomes alive."

Wilson's high-definition videos will be available for viewing at the gallery, 5514 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, Feb. 24 through April 21. Information: (323) 935-4411 or


-- Diane Haithman

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