Tony Oursler

PAC  – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy

March 19 – June 18, 2011

Tony Oursler


The PAC, the Pavilion of Contemporary Art of Milan, presents the TONY OURSLER. Open Obscura exhibition, curated by Gianni Mercurio and Demetrio Paparoni, promoted by the Department of Culture of the Municipality of Milan and produced by the PAC, 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE and MiArt; the exhibition project is by Madeinart.

The exhibition features a rich selection of works, including some large installations created by Oursler during the past five years. This Milan exhibition – which is opened together with the MiArt 2011 edition – is one of the largest anthological exhibitions dedicated to the renowned American artist, who is considered by the critics worldwide as a leading figure in recent history of video art, and is referred to as the initiator of video sculpture. His works are included in the collections of the most important museums of international modern and contemporary art, from the MOMA in New York to the Tate in London.

Tony Oursler is one of the most innovative and experimental artists among those who use the video as a means of expression, being convinced that moving images – more than the static ones – are extremely representative of our contemporary culture. Thanks to him, video art has freed itself from the limitations of the television screen and the image projected on a uniform surface, creating an original interaction with the sculpture itself and the public. Oursler’s art does not just express itself through the video image in a strict sense, but uses and overlaps sculpture, design, installation and performance.

“Oursler plays with the signs and symbols of the society of images. He turns them upside down, he questions them, he gives them new meanings,” said Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, Municipal Councillor for Culture. “As a metaphor of vision, the eyes created by Tony Oursler give life to a geometry of exchanges and interactions with the work itself and the public. Questions, wrongfooting, dreamlike suggestions plunge visitors into a visionary and restless atmosphere from the very beginning.”

The work of the artist, since the beginning of his career, has been dominated by themes such as violence, the relationship with media, drugs, mental illnesses, pop culture, consumerist compulsion, sex, pollution. Ourlser’s analysis is focused on how all those things affect man’s corporeity and social and interpersonal relations.

During the Nineties, his installations included sculpture-screens (projections on sculptures): disfigured faces spouting monologues with intimist and somehow delirious implications were projected onto irregular volumes, but also onto dolls, trees or clouds of steam. This series, called Talking Heads, has then evolved into the Eyes series (which will be presented at the PAC in a customized version, composed of ten “eyes”), in which the artist projects eyes onto spheres scattered along the exhibition space. These eyes – showing dilating pupils, iris reflection and blinking eyelids – seem to stare into space or observe the visitor. This disquieting exchange of looks between the work itself and the public, the symbolic reduction of man to eye, is one of the central themes of the American artist’s work, focused on the relation between the individual and a virtual dimension where the boundaries between reality and fiction become blurred.

The issues Tony Oursler deals with are shared by artists who are close to him, Mike Kelley above all. With him, Oursler started the punk-rock band called The Poetics and shared the wish to “make a breakdown in the aesthetic culture.” Eclectic and versatile artist, called by David Bowie for his performance of the 50th Birthday Bash concert at the Madison Square Garden in 1997, Oursler has shown since the beginning his interest for the music and the possible interactions with this expressive means through the screen. Some significant collaborations will be featured in the exhibition, with videos by the artist and David Bowie, Sonic Youth and others.

At the PAC, a series of installations inspired by the exploration of the cosmic space related to the imagination of popular culture (Cosmic Cloud and Purple Dust), and the mental troubles represented from a super-pop viewpoint (such as Frog, Crunch, Snake) will be featured as well. Among the large 2009 installations, there will be Stochastic Mask, Stone-cold Loop, Endorphic Vessel and Gaze Heuristic, which share the unusual ability to get the public involved. Together with these works, very recent ones will be exhibited as well. The first is a project that Oursler created for the Adobe Virtual Museum (The Valley, 2010 visible on www.adobemuseum.com). Thanks to some multimedia stations, the public will have the chance to interact with the digital exhibition with which the artist opened the Adobe virtual museum. The second is the Peak series (2010), micro-sculptures made up of projections onto assemblages of objects and raw materials such as glass, metals and clay. Again, in this recent series the artist carries on his research on the way technology affects human psyche.

The exhibitions at the PAC are held thanks to the support of TOD’S; the didactic activities for the public, created and organized by M-ARTE, are carried out with the contribution of Gruppo COOP Lombardia.

The catalogue is published by 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE.

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