Bill Viola -

Electric Renaissance at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence


Date:     05.04.2017

Author: Mandana Bender



Courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi


Last week I was in Florence for the very first time and i was immediately stunned by the beauty of this city. Beside visiting all the amazing museums seeing stunning Renaissance art and sights as the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, climbing up the 500 stairs of the Campanile and eating a lot of dolci at Café Rivoire, I also didn’t miss out on the contemporary art scene: Currently, the impressive renaissance Palazzo Strozzi presents a Bill Viola Retrospective called „Electric Renaissance“, where Violas works are juxtaposed to Renaissance masterpieces. One can find other accompanying parts from the exhibition in the Uffizi, the Palazzo Veccio or the Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo, which enhances the exhibition’s intense interaction with Florentine institutions and Viola’s bond with the city and the Tuscan history.


The exhibition encompasses nearly 40 years of Bill Viola’s work, starting from his early experimental pieces to his very recent installations. His works and installations stand in conversation to Renaissance masterpieces from artists like Lukas Cranach, Pontormo or Paolo Uccello, which served as an inspiration for Viola’s works.


Courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi


„Electric Renaissance“ explores Bill Violas long interest in experience and perception, as carefully staged figures become the protagonists in his work and develop a strong symbolic style which unfolds across his vivid video installations.

In his works, he explores spirituality, experience and perception as well as probing humanity: People, bodies and faces are the protagonists in his work with its poetic and strongly symbolic style in which man interacts with the forces and energies of nature such as water and fire, light and dark or the cycle of life and death, as one for example can see in the shown work „Martyrs“ (2014). The characteristically slow-moving figures are subjected to various elemental manifestations of earth, fire, air and water. The images mesmerize as if seeking to draw us out of the present moment and deposit us in a discrete, virtual space carved out of the gallery wall by the key property of video—its illusion of immediate realism.


Beyond recognizable time, this imagined space allows us to forget for the duration that we are standing with others in a darkened public interior—a museum that might just as well be a church, library or train station. In terms of artistic experience, his work exists between the most elevating forms of painting in history and the temporal spectacle of cinema. Like Hollywood, Viola offers his audience psychically charged identification with the figures in cinematic tableaux that frequently recall the composition of frescoes by Giotto or openly quote Pontormo.



Courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi


The works are shown in the setting of the old prestigious Renaissance Palazzo, which draws an unexpected dialogue between the classic and contemporary which also fuels a mesmerising interaction between Viola’s work and the masterpieces of the great Renaissance artists, which have marked the development of his artistic vocabulary and style.


„Electric Renaissance“ also celebrates Viola’s relationship with Florence, where he first developed his career in 1974 by being the technical director of art/tapes/22, a video production and documentation centre and therefore the city has a special meaning to him.

Courtesy of Palazzo Strozzi


I can highly recommend seeing the exhibition, which is on view until the 23rd July 2017. It is a great way of showing the overall Renaissance impressions of Florence and its influence on contemporary art. Actually, Florence is always worth a visit.