American artist Bill Viola (b. 1951) is internationally recognised as one of today’s leading artists. Since the 1970s, he has created ground-breaking video artworks and in doing so has been instrumental in establishing this as a vital form of contemporary art practice. Utilising state of the art technologies, Viola has produced videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat-panel video pieces and works for television broadcast.
Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. Exploring fundamental human experiences including birth, death and changing states of consciousness, the artist engages with Eastern and Western art traditions, as well as proposing religious or spiritual ideas deriving from Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism and Christian mysticism.
Viola’s art has led to him travel the world, and in 1979 both he and his wife and long-time collaborator Kira Perov travelled to the Sahara desert, Tunisia, to record mirages. The following year Viola was awarded a US and Japan Creative Artist Fellowship and they lived in Japan for over a year where they studied Zen Buddhism. Viola also became the first artist in residence at Sony Corporation's Atsugi research laboratories. Viola and Perov returned to the US at the end of 1981 and settled in Long Beach, California. In 1987 they travelled for five months throughout the American Southwest photographing Native American rock art sites, and recording nocturnal desert landscapes. More recently, at the end of 2005, they journeyed with their two sons to Dharamsala, India, to record a prayer blessing with the Dalai Lama.
Music has always been an important part of Viola's life and work, and in 2000, he created a three-song video suite for the rock group Nine Inch Nails' world tour.
Among Viola’s numerous solo exhibitions since 1973 are Projects, the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1979); Bill Viola: Survey of a Decade, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (1988); Bill Viola, Fukui Fine Arts Museum, Fukui, Japan (1989); Bill Viola: Unseen Images, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (1993-4). Viola represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1995. In 1997, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organised a major 25-year survey of his work, which travelled to six museums in Europe and the United States. In 2002, Viola presented his most ambitious work to date, the digital ‘fresco’ cycle Going Forth By Day, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Since then, major exhibitions of Viola’s work have been organised by the J. Paul Getty Museum (2003) and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2006), and Blain Southern in London (2011 and 2013). In 2011 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale in the category of painting, a prestigious global art prize awarded annually by the Japan Art Association.
Bill Viola lives and works in Long Beach, California.