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University of Iowa News Release


January 18, 2008

Video celebrity portraits to star in Robert Wilson show Feb. 2 to March 30

Johnny Depp, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Salma Hayek and Mikhail Baryshnikov will be among the celebrities whose video portraits are on display when the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) presents "VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson," Feb. 2 through March 30.

The exhibition of high-definition video portraits by epochal avant-garde artist Robert Wilson was commissioned and produced by VOOM HD Networks, a high-definition television company. The portraits of 33 people and animals require more than 50 screens. The majority will be on display throughout the galleries of the UIMA, with a smaller number of portraits at CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE in Cedar Rapids.

The exhibition will be open to the public free of charge in both venues.

A complex, high-tech exhibition, "VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson" required the UIMA to close during most of January for its installation. The museum will reopen with the Wilson portraits on Saturday, Feb. 2.

The exhibition covers a wide range of subjects, both human and animal. The people are mostly celebrities, including writers, actors, dancers and one sumo wrestler, but also include an auto mechanic. There are also six animal subjects, including a porcupine, a snow owl and a skunk. The complete list of subjects is available at

Hailed as one of the world's truly visionary theater artists, Wilson was at the UI Center for the New Performing Arts when he created his early seminal work "Deafman Glance" in 1970. He will return to campus to present the Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture, "A Still Life is a Real Life," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in E.C. Mabie Theatre. Free tickets to the lecture will be available at the University Box Office in the Iowa Memorial Union starting Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Other free public events taking place in conjunction with the exhibition will be:

--"A Conversation with Robert Wilson," at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at CSPS. Free tickets will be required. Call CSPS/Legion Arts at 319-364-1580 for information.
--Opening reception for "VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson," from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at CSPS.
--"Concept to Completion," a gallery talk with Noah Khoshbin, Robert Wilson's producer and artistic collaborator, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, at the UIMA. Khoshbin will tour the exhibition and discuss the process of creating the portraits.
--"Travels with Bob," a tour of the exhibition in the UIMA with Mel Andringa of Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids, who will discuss his time working with Wilson in the 1970s, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at the UIMA.

The New York Times described Wilson as "a towering figure in the world of experimental theater and an explorer in the uses of time and space onstage." Susan Sontag added that Wilson's career "has the signature of a major artistic creation. I can't think of any body of work as large or as influential."

Wilson has been working since 2004 as artist-in-residence with VOOM HD Networks, a United-States-based suite of high-definition channels. He has combined high-definition, state-of-the-art clarity with his own distinctive artistic vision to create the video portraits in the exhibition.

Using colors, music, minimal narrative and measured movement, these portraits will transform the UIMA galleries into a high-tech spectacle of art and entertainment.

Each portrait is produced by a rigorous collaboration process that takes months to complete. Set design, lighting, music, makeup, movement, props and costume are carefully coordinated. Wilson works closely with his human subjects to develop settings that recall iconic works of art, history and popular culture.

For example, Princess Caroline of Monaco strikes a starkly elegant pose reminiscent both of her mother, Grace Kelly, in the film "Rear Window," and of John Singer Sargent's portrait of "Madame X"; Winona Ryder is the main character, Winnie, in Samuel Beckett's play "Happy Days"; and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is posed as St. Sebastian pierced by arrows. In addition, each work features an individual soundtrack from musicians, including Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Bernard Hermann, Michael Galasso, Big Black and Bach, as interpreted by Glenn Gould, Hans Peter Kuhn and Ethel Merman.

"VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson" opened to rave reviews at Simon de Pury & Company and the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in Jan. 2007 and received further critical acclaim at Ace Gallery (Feb. 2007, Los Angeles), the Triumph Gallery (Oct. 2007, Moscow, Russia), Ekaterina Foundation (Oct. 2007, Moscow, Russia), and MADRA (Oct. 2007, Naples Italy).

More information on the exhibition can be found at

Wilson's visionary theater projects have included "Einstein on the Beach," his groundbreaking 1976 collaboration with composer Philip Glass; the multinational epic "CIVIL warS"; numerous productions for major opera houses in Europe and the United States; and "I La Galigo," an entirely new production based on an epic poem from Indonesia that appeared at the Lincoln Center Festival in summer 2005.

"The Knee Plays," a group of entr'actes from "CIVIL warS" created in collaboration with David Byrne, and "Monsters of Grace," a multimedia work with live music by the Philip Glass Ensemble, have been performed in the UI Hancher Auditorium.

Wilson's numerous awards and honors include an Obie award for direction, the Golden Lion for sculpture from the Venice Biennale, the 3rd Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the Premio Europa award from Taormina Arte, two Guggenheim Fellowship awards, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship award, a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, the Golden Lion for Sculpture from the Venice Biennale, election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement, and named as Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister of culture.

A graduate and former faculty member of the UI School of Art and Art History, Andringa first worked with Robert Wilson as a student at the UI, and later worked as Wilson's assistant in New York. He joined with UI American studies alumnus F. John Herbert in the early 1980s to found the performance art company the Drawing Legion. For 10 years, Andringa and the Drawing Legion were based in Iowa City while touring in the United States and Europe.

Under the auspices of Legion Arts, they continue to generate original, award-winning performances. Many of these, including "American Nervousness," "The Man Who Discovered Iowa" and "Jury Duty," are based on historical figures and reflect Midwestern themes.

In 1992, Legion Arts opened CSPS in a renovated Czech social hall near downtown Cedar Rapids. Since then, CSPS has become a regional venue for art, music, dance and theater from across the United States and other countries.

CSPS is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Information on CSPS/Legion Arts is available at

The UI Museum of Art is located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City. Regularly scheduled museum hours -- noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday -- will resume when "VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson" opens Feb. 2. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art, visit

"VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson" is presented in Iowa with support from Nancy and Craig Willis, Doug and Linda Paul, Rockwell Collins, Margaret C. Clancy, hotelVetro and conference center, Moengroup, Reference Audio Video Experts, Gazette Publications and KCRG TV.

The annual Spriestersbach Lecture at the Museum of Art honors the late Bette R. Spriestersbach, a museum docent and a former program associate in the Child Health Specialty Clinics in the UI Hospital School who died in 2004. She was the wife of former UI vice president Duane C. Spriestersbach, who endowed the lecture in 1992 through a gift to the University of Iowa Foundation.

In addition to its location in the Iowa Memorial Union, the University Box Office may be reached by phone at 319-335-3041 or toll-free 1-800-346-4401. The fax number is 319-335-3407. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Any remaining tickets to Wilson's lecture will be available at the door.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

Photos are available from the Museum of Art. To request photos for publication, contact Maggie Anderson, 319-335-1731,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, Museum of Art, 319-335-1731,; Peter Alexander, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0072 (office), 319-541-2846 (cell),