Celebrities pose for hours for these photos by Robert Wilson

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Written by Jacqui Palumbo

A celebrity’s profile can be quickly shaped by a single photo, TikTok video or news headline, but in Robert Wilson’s staged video footage shot over the past two decades, it invites for viewers to slow down – method down — with hour-long posters hosted by celebrities like Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Isabella Rossellini.

Now on view at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the exhibition, “Moving Portraits,” features A-Listers in well-presented scenes drawn from art history, film and culture – interspersed with portraits of people and animals that are not famous – with each one. only video that contains subtle hints of movement over a long period of time.
This portrait of Lady Gaga was first shown at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2013.

This portrait of Lady Gaga was first shown at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2013. Credit: RW Works, Ltd.

In one painting, which required a seven-hour stand, Lady Gaga directed the regal Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière, originally painted by the 19th-century French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. During the shooting, tears ran down the pop star and actor’s face.

In the noir scene of Princess Caroline of Monaco, the royal paid tribute to her mother, Grace Kelly, and her famous roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s films, creating a scene that resembles the 1954 film “Rear Window “. The video works are displayed at human scale on large high-definition screens around the exhibition.

“I conceptualize the shoes with everyone,” Wilson said in an email. “With Lady Gaga, I was having an exhibition of my work and collection at the Louvre (in Paris) and I wanted to have pictures of Gaga based on the museum’s collection.”

Princess Caroline of Monaco in a 2006 photo.

Princess Caroline of Monaco in a 2006 photo. Credit: RW Works, Ltd.

Wilson, an acclaimed theater director who has worked for more than five decades, is known for his experimental opera and avant-garde stage shows where he has long played with the conventions of time. . His four-act opera by composer Phillip Glass from 1976, “Einstein on the Beach” is nearly five hours long with no intermission, allowing audiences to come and go. as they wish. He also recalled a seven-day, 24-hour display at Haft Tan Mountain near the Iranian city of Shiraz, “a kind of frame or window to the world where ordinary and extraordinary events can be seen together,” he said. in a catalog says about the 1972 production.

Wilson said he had the idea for ultra-slow motion video footage in the 1970s, seeing them shown in “hotel lobbies, banks, and bus stops, and (on) the back seats of airplanes.” Early in the 2000s, when he started shooting the works, high-definition screens were easier to come by, and he could choose a vertical format, so that “they correspond to the human condition,” he explained.

Brad Pitt captured in a 2004 photo.

Brad Pitt captured in a 2004 photo. Credit: RW Works, Ltd.

Celebrities often have limited time for photo shoots – sometimes just a few minutes – but Wilson has taken a few hours each from Robert Downey Jr., who became the subject of a body-like photo reference. on a 1632 anatomical painting by Rembrandt, the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was martyred as Saint Sebastian with an arrow, as well as Salma Hayek and Winona Ryder.

And while Wilson made many of his works before quick social media clips dominated the Internet, they have a special touch today. They are not easily shown online, and are meant to be appreciated in person in a way that makes viewers take their time. Wilson said, “I think these works go against the times (in which) we live.”

Image above: Robert Downey Jr. in the restored Rembrandt painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.”

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