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Monday, January 12, 2004

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will serve as the exclusive East Coast venue for the first North American survey of works by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon (b. 1966, Glasgow, Scotland). On view from Feb. 12 through May 9, the exhibition “Douglas Gordon” will include large-scale projected video installations, text pieces, still photographs and filmed images on video monitors created by the artist from 1993 to 2002. A highlight of the D.C. installation will be the artist’s recent work “Play Dead: Real Time” (2002), which makes its U.S. museum debut at the Hirshhorn.

“As a forum for leading international contemporary art, the Hirshhorn is very pleased to showcase a significant, provocative young artist like Douglas Gordon,” museum Director Ned Rifkin, says. “Gordon’s work deals with a number of universal themes including trust, guilt, good, evil, confession and deception, prompting visceral reactions from viewers. We look forward to introducing American audiences to this challenging and thoughtful body of work.”

Best known for his film and video installations that draw upon classic Hollywood movies, Gordon, 37, studied at The Glasgow School of Art and The Slade School of Fine Art, London. His performance-oriented collaborations became the focus of the Glasgow art scene during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gordon’s work drew international attention with his 1993 piece “24 Hour Psycho,” in which a radically slowed version of Alfred Hitchcock’s film is projected on a suspended screen.

As in “24 Hour Psycho,” much of Gordon’s work mines popular culture and alters existing sources — from movies like “Rear Window,” “The Exorcist” and “Taxi Driver,” to obscure documentary footage — to challenge perceptions and recast viewers’ expectations. The artist has received three of the most esteemed international accolades in contemporary art: the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize (1998), the Tate’s Turner Prize (1996) and the Venice Biennale Premio (1997).

A series of public programs will accompany the show, including “24 Hour Access: 24 Hour Psycho,” Feb. 28 – Feb. 29. Inspired by Gordon’s seminal video piece “24 Hour Psycho,” this event will feature 24 consecutive hours of free access to the exhibition and conclude with a “Meet the Artist” interview conducted by Hirshhorn Director of Art and Programs and Chief Curator Kerry Brougher.

“Douglas Gordon” has been organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and was curated by Russell Ferguson, deputy director for exhibitions and programs and chief curator at the University of California, Los Angeles, Hammer Museum and former associate curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The Hirshhorn presentation has been organized by Kerry Brougher and Associate Curator Kelly Gordon.

“In his relatively short but high-profile career, Douglas Gordon has created compelling, original work that turns the familiar into dark, humorous explorations of the contemporary psyche,” Brougher says. “This show underscores the Hirshhorn’s commitment to presenting important young artists who are affecting and influencing the direction of art.”

Darkness and light, the tension between good and evil, and doppelgänger imagery are key to Gordon’s conceptual approach. Best known for projected video installations that “sculpt” time, Gordon often alters existing source material to explore memory, perception and ideas about the human condition.

“24 Hour Psycho” (1993) transforms Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller into a halting sequence of still images by projecting the film onto a suspended screen at two frames per second, instead of the customary 24. “Between Darkness and Light (After William Blake)” (1997) is shaped by the relentless layering of the disparate soundtracks and imagery from “The Exorcist” (1973) and “The Song of Bernadette” (1943). In “through a looking glass” (1999), two opposing screens repeatedly project the character Travis Bickle and his unforgettable line “you talkin’ to me?” from the film “Taxi Driver” (1976). Polar opposites abound as the human condition is juxtaposed against noble desires. Gordon’s photographs are often self-portraits. In “Monster” (1996 – 97), a “normal” view of the artist mirrors his freakishly cello-taped face, embodying his fascination with doppelgänger imagery. His interest in the paradoxical nature of perception and language is seen in “Tattoo (I)” (1994): “TRUST ME” states the edgy message on the artist’s arm. The content of Gordon’s text pieces is infused with irony; the tone ranges from mischievous to ominous.

Works such as “Three Inches (Black)” (1997) also capture Gordon’s provocative style. Comprised of 11 color photographs, each showing the index finger of a left hand covered in black ink, the piece was derived from a story Gordon heard as a youth. In that tale, weapons longer than three inches – the length deemed possible to penetrate a vital organ during a stabbing – were banned by Glasgow police during a crackdown on gang violence. In another paradoxical metaphor offered by the artist, one realizes that three inches also offers access to the repository of benevolence: the heart.

“Play Dead: Real Time” (2002) captures the laborious routine of an elephant as she silently plods, rolls over, plays dead and struggles to her feet. An epic work projected on two large screens and a video monitor, the piece can be interpreted in a number of ways, perhaps even as a metaphor for the art-making process.

“Douglas Gordon” debuted at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in Sept. 2001 and has traveled to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver (spring 2002) and Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (spring 2003).

The exhibition is made possible by generous support from Susan Bay-Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy, Catharine and Jeffrey Soros, The Thornton S. Glide, Jr. and Katrina D. Glide Foundation, The Peter Norton Family Foundation, the MOCA Contemporaries and the New Media Project. Additional support for the exhibition catalog has been provided by Art for Arts Sake. The Hirshhorn’s presentation of “Douglas Gordon” is made possible in part by Aaron and Barbara Levine and with special funding from the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn.

The 184-page illustrated four-color catalog, available in the museum store for $42, includes an interview with the artist and essays by Russell Ferguson and four other contributors. A free exhibition brochure will also be available.

“24-Hour Access: 24 Hour Psycho” and “Meet the Artist”
Inspired by Gordon’s “24 Hour Psycho,” the museum will offer 24 consecutive hours of free access to the exhibition from 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 29. This leap-year event will include music, gallery discussions and a “Meet the Artist” interview with Gordon conducted by Hirshhorn Director of Art and Programs and Chief Curator Kerry Brougher on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Ring Auditorium. “24 Hour Access: 24 Hour Psycho” is made possible through the generosity of Aaron and Barbara Levine, with support from the British Council. Support for the Meet the Artist program is provided through the generosity of the Steven and Heather Mnuchin Foundation.
Gallery Talk with Russell Ferguson
Exhibition curator Russell Ferguson will discuss the show during a walk-through of the exhibition on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 12:30 p.m. Meet at the exhibition entrance, second floor.
Gallery Talk: A 21st Century Romantic
Assistant Curator Kristen Hileman will analyze the recurrent themes found in Gordon’s work on Sunday, April 18, at 3 p.m. Meet at the exhibition entrance, second floor.
Public Concerts
The music ensemble 20th Century Consort will offer two performances inspired by the exhibition: “Running Backward” on Saturday, March 13, at 5 p.m. and “No Place to Hyde” on Saturday, April 17, at 5 p.m. (preconcert discussions at 4 p.m. and meet-the-artist receptions after each performance). Ring Auditorium. Consult www.residentassociates.org or call 202-357-3030 for program details and ticket information.
New Voices: Students’ Dialog
Graduate students Charnan Lewis and Dawit Abebe will offer an in-gallery analysis of Gordon’s work on Sunday, April 25, at 3 p.m. Meet at the exhibition entrance, second floor.
Trust Me: Exhibition Conversations
Drop-in discussions and impromptu tours led by graduate students and docents on Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 13 through April 24, from 12:45 to 3 p.m. Meet near the exhibition entrance, second floor.
Films: Douglas Gordon, Then and Now
The Hirshhorn will present footage from various interviews with Gordon on Thursdays, March 4, 11, 18 and 25, at noon in the Ring Auditorium.
The artist’s bookshelf
Books and periodicals selected by the artist, in addition to audience response cards, will be available in the third-floor Abram Lerner room.

Consult www.hirshhorn.si.edu for additional details on all public programs.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the nation’s museum of modern and contemporary international art, serves an estimated 700,000 visitors annually. The museum’s collection encompasses some 11,500 paintings, sculptures, mixed media installations and works on paper. The Hirshhorn maintains active exhibition and educational programs, examining and informing the public about the art of our time. The museum, open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., is located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W. Admission is free.

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