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FIRST SOLO MUSEUM EXHIBITION OF THE WORK OF INDEPENDENT BRITISH FILMMAKER ISAAC JULIEN OPENS IN SEPTEMBER Center for Curatorial Studies presents The Film Art of Isaac Julien from Sunday, September 24, to Friday, December 15
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College will present the first solo museum exhibition of the work of Isaac Julien, Britain's preeminent black independent filmmaker. Curated by Museum Director Amada Cruz, the exhibition will feature four video installations and photographs and prints from the films. A catalogue, published by the Center for Curatorial Studies, will accompany the exhibition and will be the most comprehensive publication on Julien's work to date.
There will be an opening reception for the exhibition, The Film Art of Isaac Julien, on Sunday, September 24, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition will be on view Wednesdays through Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. through Friday, December 15. Both the reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.
Isaac Julien is an internationally recognized artist, writer, teacher, and scholar. He concentrates on the representation of race and masculinity in film. Although his work is considered avant-garde, Julien employs conventional cinematic strategies of narrative and beauty to explore and subvert stereotypical portrayals of gay and black subjects. His films, characterized by their dreamlike imagery and sensuality, include Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996); Young Soul Rebels, recipient of the 1991 Cannes Critics Prize for a feature-length film; and the critically acclaimed documentary about Langston Hughes, Looking for Langston (1989).
Julien has moved toward the use of multiple screens, transferring his films to laser disc for projection. He says this allows him to explore certain compositional ideas that are impossible with a single screen and enhances how the viewer perceives images on the screen. He said, in an interview with the Kansas City Star, that it is "freeing" for his work to be shown in a gallery rather than the traditional theater setting because "in a gallery you can walk around."
This exhibition will present a related series of Julien's multiple-screen installations, which form a trilogy: The Attendant (1993), Trussed (1996), and Three (The Conservator's Dream) (1996–99). Also included is Julien’s most recent installation, The Long Road to Mazatlán (1999). Photographs and prints from these works will also be on view.
In The Attendant, which is set in a museum, a black male uniformed guard (the attendant) and a black female conservator are the protagonists. The film presents the S & M fantasy of the attendant with a white visitor. Although she remains silent, the conservator is an ally, enabling the encounter between the lovers. Using camp and humor, Julien presents desire and pleasure as possible avenues for resistance to racial and class distinctions.
Trussed (a pun on trust) is a double projection of identical images side by side. A series of tableaux vivants that resemble a "Robert Mapplethorpe in motion" according to Julien, it includes images of tenderness between a black and white male couple and the black lover in a wheelchair. With sweeping, circular camera movements and the doubling of the image, Trussed is a vision of eroticism, illness, and the complexities that AIDS has wrought to gay love and desire.
Three (The Conservator's Dream) is a collaboration with and features acclaimed choreographers Bebe Miller and Ralph Lemon with British actress Cleo Sylvestre. The film is projected as three looped sequences, side by side. An exploration of desire through dance, Three juxtaposes symbolic images with their religious, cultural, and social references. Through its collaborative nature and with its interdisciplinary references—to photography, film, dance, and painting—it breaks down the barriers between those disciplines and beautifully unites them.
The Long Road to Mazatlán was created during Julien's recent residency at ArtPace: A Foundation for Contemporary Art in San Antonio, Texas. The film is a collaboration between Julien and the Venezuelan dancer and choreographer, Javier de Frutos, and examines the mythic codes of sexuality of the West as they appear to these London-based outsiders. In particular, the image of the lone white cowboy and its trajectory and resonance within gay culture is examined. This triptych of lush color and layered imagery combines cinematic references to Andy Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys, David Hockney's Swimmers and Pools, and Robert DeNiro's performance as Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Julien's camera choreography, from close-ups to the overlay of imagery, makes the camera "not a witness, but an accomplice."
The exhibition catalogue will include photo-documentation of the works in the show, interpretive essays, and Julien's critical writings, which have never before been collected. These writings offer fresh, intelligent, and accessible perspectives on issues of representation, particularly
de-essentializing black and gay identity. The other essays are by art historian and critic David Deitcher and writer David Frankel. The catalogue will be distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. in fall 2000.
In addition to this being the first solo museum show for Isaac Julien, it is also the first time that the trilogy will be shown together. The Long Road to Mazatlán is having its East Coast premiere during the exhibition, after its debut in San Antonio and at Grand Arts in Kansas City. After December the exhibition will tour to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (February – April 2001); BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden (September – December 2001); and Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvik, Norway (January – March 2002).
The Film Art of Isaac Julien is made possible by grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Peter Norton Family Foundation, and the British Council of the Arts.
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[Editors: Slides are available upon request, call 845-758-7512.]