Tony Oursler at the Met
"Studio" and "Climaxed"
May 17–September 18, 2005
This exhibition presents two installations by the internationally renowned artist Tony Oursler (American, b. 1954) that have never before been on view in the United States.
In Studio: Seven Months of My Aesthetic Education (Plus Some), NYC Version, inspired by Gustave Courbet's The Artist's Studio: A real allegory of a seven year phase in my artistic and moral life (1855), Oursler creates his own three-dimensional studio identical in scale to Courbet's painting. He brings in "studio visitors" who make appearances on a large video screen. Visitors include family members, friends, and colleagues, such as filmmaker Robert Altman, artists John Baldessari and Constance de Jong, and musicians David Bowie and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. All share stories or comments, or act out roles. Also included in are "inspirational objects," such as a Rem Koolhaas architectural model and works by Kaare Rafoss, a friend and former teacher, and Jacqueline Humphries. Oursler is represented in Studio by a laughing, glowing blob onto which a video of multiple eyes is projected. This differs from Courbet, who portrays himself facing away from the viewer. As Oursler explains, "Courbet chose to depict himself at work, turned away from the viewer, looking into the picture space. I want to be in the work, the picture space, looking out at the viewer/participant."
In Climaxed, a floating fireball hangs in mid-air in a state of continual explosion, a comment on the spectacle of media culture. The figure, which speaks, is a combination of computer animation and live-action elements of a face. The artist creates an environment that seeks to uncover and attenuate forever what happens—or how it feels—if an explosion is frozen at its most exciting moment, just as it begins.