Although video art emerged in the 1960s with the advent of video recording devices, the medium gained traction as its ascendance coincided with the increased importance of television within daily life, which forever changed the ways in which images were distributed, consumed, and eventually reconstituted. Five Pioneers brings together landmark works by artists who helped pioneer the medium of video art.
In Vertical Role Joan Jonas (performing as her alter-ego Organic Honey) appears in various costumes (some rather revealing). Yet as seductive as she may appear to be, we are only able to grasp her image in fragments. While appearing radically different from Jonas’s work, Dara Birnbaum’s Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry also seeks to deconstruct images of the female form. Employing offscreen footage from the game show Hollywood Squares, the video repeats and breaks down the footage of minor celebrities and is paired with various musical counterparts. Nam June Paik, one of the first artists to experiment with video, created two works in the exhibition in collaboration with artist Jud Yalkut. In Missa of Zen, A TV screen is filmed from a sharp angle, playing with our sense of perspective by flickering in and out of abstraction. In Baldessari Sings LeWitt, conceptual artist John Baldessari does just that, by bringing a humorous yet earnest tonal range to Sol LeWitt’s famed 1969 text Sentences on Conceptual Art.