NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present Robert Wilson’s Deafman Glance: Video Installation. The exhibition will open on September 24 and remain on view through November 6, 2010.
Deafman Glance is a twenty-seven minute video adaptation of a climactic murder scene from Wilson’s seven-hour “silent opera” of the same title. The images rotate around six monitors mounted high along the walls of the exhibition space, moving from screen to screen on a three second delay. Facing the screens are nearly seven-foot tall chairs designed by Wilson.
Created in collaboration with Raymond Andrews, a deaf and mute teenager whom Wilson had adopted, Deafman Glance tells the disturbing story of a mother who kills her children witnessed by a deaf-mute. Wilson underscores non-verbal communication, abstract sounds and spatial relationships throughout the piece, subverting linear narrative progression. The accent on pictorial composition, rhythm and repetition results in a surrealist, dream-like atmosphere. The multiple monitors and the elongated chairs further enhance the sense of alienation inherent in the theatrical work.
The 1971 Paris stage premiere of Deafman Glance, starring the actress Sheryl Sutton, was a watershed moment for Wilson, garnering him international acclaim. French Surrealist Louis Aragon wrote of Wilson in a letter to André Breton, “…he is what we, from whom Surrealism was born, dreamed would come after us and go beyond us.” Produced at a time when avant-garde theater generally involved audience participation, Wilson “put the theatricality back inside the frame of the stage…”
A native of Waco, Texas, Wilson was educated at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Soon thereafter Wilson set to work with his Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and together with this school developed his first signature works including King of Spain (’69), Deafman Glance (‘70), The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (‘73), and A Letter for Queen Victoria (’74). Regarded as a leader in Manhattan’s burgeoning avant-garde, Wilson turned his attention to large-scale opera and, with Philip Glass, created the monumental Einstein on the Beach (’76), which achieved worldwide acclaim and altered conventional notions of the opera form.
Following Einstein, Wilson worked increasingly with major European theaters and opera houses. In collaboration with internationally renowned writers and performers, Wilson created landmark original works that were featured regularly at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, Der Berliner Ensemble, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, the Salzburg Festival, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. At the Schaubühne he created Death, Destruction & Detroit (1979) and Death, Destruction & Detroit II (1987); and at the Thalia he presented the groundbreaking musical works The Black Rider (1991) and Alice (1992). He has also applied his striking formal language to the operatic repertoire, including Parsifal in Hamburg (1991), Houston (1992), and Los Angeles (2005); The Magic Flute (1991) and Madame Butterfly (1993); and Lohengrin at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1998 & 2006). More recently, Wilson completed a production based on an epic poem from Indonesia, entitled I La Galigo, which toured extensively and appeared at the Lincoln Center Festival in the summer of 2005. Wilson continues to direct revivals of his most celebrated productions, including The Black Rider in London, San Francisco, Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles; The Temptation of St. Anthony in New York and Barcelona; Erwartung in Berlin; Madama Butterfly at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow; and Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen at Le Châtelet in Paris.
Wilson’s practice is firmly rooted in the fine arts and his drawings, furniture designs, and installations have been shown in museums and galleries internationally. Extensive retrospectives have been presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He has presented installations at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, London’s Clink Street Vaults and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. His extraordinary tribute to Isamu Noguchi has been exhibited most recently at the Seattle Art Museum and his Voom Portraits exhibition traveled to Hamburg, Milan, Miami, and Philadelphia. In 2009 Wilson received the Trophée des Arts Award from the French Institute Alliance Française. Each summer Wilson retreats to the Watermill Center in eastern Long Island – a laboratory for the arts and humanities – which brings together students and experienced professionals in a multi-disciplinary environment dedicated to creative collaboration.
For more information, please contact the gallery: (212) 255-1105 or
1. “An Open Letter to André Breton on Robert Wilson’s ‘Deafman Glance’,” Les Lettres Francaise, 2-8 June 1971
2. Garrigues, Dominique, New Media Encyclopedia