Tony Oursler's new video installations are inspired by the seventeenth century Dutch still-life genre known as vanitas which alludes to allegories of morality and the transience of life. Video images and scrolled text are projected onto large skulls that rest on the floor with arrangements of white cast objects including hands, dildos, and books.
One of the cast fiberglass skulls lies on its side with a cluster of jewels pouring from its hollowed eyes. On the mouth, a projection of lips animates the skull with a narrative about the transition between life and death. Another skull sits upright with a lit candle resting on its cranium; a video projection of a moth flutters around the skull, casting shadows on the wall. Projected fragments of body parts combine to form the face of another skull. This creature comes to life as scattered voices describe their dreams. Other works are covered in projections of scrolling text about modern media written by the artist, and excerpts from the writings of the seventeenth century English poet Thomas Parnell, Pedro Calderón, and Oliver Wendall Holmes concerning the historical aesthetics of death. Also included in the exhibition is a magnified projection of a fly darting about on one wall.
Oursler's work is represented in prominent museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Tate Gallery, London. In 1997 his work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and a collaboration with Mike Kelley, The Poetics Project, was included in Documenta X, Kassel, Germany. Recent one-person exhibitions were held at the CAPC Musée, Musée d'art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France (1997), and the Kunstverein, Hanover, Germany (1998). A mid-career retrospective opens April 17, 1999 at Williams College, Warsaw Center, Williamstown, MA with a coinciding exhibition of new work opening on May 31 at MASS MOCA in North Adams, MA. The exhibition tour for both exhibits will include The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX and Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA with more venues to be added.