Philadelphia

Bill Viola, Observance, 2002, HD video, color, silent, 10 minutes 14 seconds.

Bill Viola, Observance, 2002, HD video, color, silent, 10 minutes 14 seconds.

Bill Viola

The Barnes Foundation

In his eponymous museum, Albert C. Barnes (1872–1951) divided his impressive collection into small “ensembles,” juxtaposing paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects without regard for chronology or geography: a modern abstraction beside pages from a medieval Book of Hours, an African ceremonial ax suspended above a European rendering of Christ carrying the cross. As curator John G. Hanhardt writes in the catalogue for “I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like: The Art of Bill Viola,” Barnes’s eclecticism made his museum the ideal site for this Bill Viola exhibition—the first of its size in Philadelphia, assembling eight videos and multimedia installations dating from 1976 through 2009. Like Barnes, Viola uses art to discover transcultural and transtemporal resonances, and the works on view represented a grab bag of pictorial, philosophical, and religious referents. Consider, for instance,

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