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Commentary Detail

Video Art
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired October 05, 2012

Just when I think that I've talked about most major art disciplines, I realize that I've omitted a major genre.

Lately I've been invited to attend art exhibitions featuring video art, which is somewhat hard to define. It's not theatrical cinema and often doesn't employ actors or even have dialogue or a plot.

Video art is an art form which came about in the 60's and 70's with the conceptual and experimental works of such artists as Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Dan Graham, Bruce Naumann and probably the most well-known was Korean artist Nam Jun Paik. Nam Jun Paik made his big debut at an exhibition known as "Exposition of Music-Electronic Television " in which he scattered televisions everywhere and used magnets to alter and distort their images.

We have many well-known video artists right here in St.Louis. Van McElwee leads the pack. He is a professor at Webster University and teaches experimental video and media production among other courses. McElwee, a Guggenheim fellowship awardee and recipient of multiple other national and international awards, says, "One aspect of video and all media art is that it can take so many different forms. Although I usually make sounds and images as part of the same process. The New Music Circle and Hearding Cats Collective, two new music groups, have made it possible to work with many talented musicians who interpret my visuals in new ways. "He has had his work shown worldwide and has recently been shown at our own Bruno David Gallery in Grand Center.

Two other video artists who teach at Webster University recently had their work shown at The Factory on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis at a benefit for the Sheldon Art Galleries. Sarah Paulson is an artist and an animator. Her works have been shown around the country and at such places in St. Louis as Gallery 210 at U.M.S.L, Laumeier Sculpture Park, and the Mildred Kemper Museum at Washington University. Robin Asner works primarily with photography, video and installation. Assner says, "Video art is a huge genre with a wide range of possibilities and approaches. Contemporary artists are making videos in a variety of exciting and experimental ways. In my most recent video, a collaboration with Adam Watkins, I created the video as an abstract painter might approach making a painting. Building up the "canvas" by layering textures, lines, shapes and movements throughout the duration of the video, constructing a visual cacophony of texture and image.

Recently the St. Louis Art Museum had an exhibition featuring the work of Bill Viola. Viola is considered a leading figure in the generation of artists whose artistic expression depends upon electronic, sound, and image technology in New Media. His work entitled, "Visitation", shows two ghostly female figures, filmed in grainy black and white, moving slowly toward the viewers, a work from his most recent series of video/sound installations. His piece Transfigurations, from 2008, shows the two female figures break through a threshold of falling water and emerge in high definition color. The performers each respond with intense emotion -- one gasps and is overcome with convulsive sobbing -- and eventually they turn and walk back through the water becoming immaterial again. Viola's investigation of the omnipresent themes of life and death, heaven and earth have been greatly inspired by devotional art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Video work by Sheldon Art Gallery's Director, Olivia Lahs-Glonzales was also recently screened at the 2012 Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, organized by Cinema St. Louis. An extension of the work she produces in photography, the 5 minute video “Garden” was an evocation of her garden at night. Filmed from a bug's eye perspective, the work was meant to instill in the viewer a sense of mystery and wonder.

St Louis has many bright and artistic minds keeping up with and creating national trends in the world of the visual arts.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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