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Phil Solomon

Before & After

The Falls

May 16 - August 7, 2013

Phil Solomon American Falls 2010-12 film still 35mm film to HD video Young ProjectsLR
Phil Solomon American Falls 2010 2013 Screen Grab Detail at Young Projects LR

Works in the Exhibition




“EMPIRE” (2008-2012)

HD video, stereo sound, 48 minutes (24 hours, GTA time), 16:9, dimensions variable)

(2008-2012, HD video, stereo sound, 48 minutes (24 hours, GTA time), 16:9, dimensions variable)

Notes from the artist: A re-make of Andy Warhol’s Empire from high atop the Manhattan Island of Grand Theft Auto IV (“Liberty City”), far from the madding crowd of thieves, cops, prostitutes and murderers down below. I hijacked a copter, leaped onto the rooftop of an adjacent building, spawned a scooter out of the thin air and then gingerly drove it to the very edge of the precipice in order to roughly approximate that familiar view from July 25-26, 1964. And then I put the controller aside and did exactly nothing for 24 hours (48 minutes in our world). A day of rest and bordered inaction. And lo and behold, the Overseers appear to have accounted for someone, somewhere doing exactly this, resisting the game’s narrative intention toward movement and action. Again and again, for 40 days and 40 nights, I was privy to a very different apperception of time and light, but one that was already embedded into the game’s code, if for no other existential purpose than to act as a gradually shifting rear screen projection for the street level mayhem. A thunderstorm threatens, then clears. High winds blow errant pieces of limned debris. Golden waters sparkle and dance as the west-turned sun sets in the rosy-fingered dusk. Night comes in. Mechanical fireflies and custodial lights dot the void. The moon (twice) comes out to play. The night canopy is gradually withdrawn, as the morning light of weekday commuting burnishes in from the east. As we approach full circle, the blue afternoon gradually reveals the Building in its final iconic silhouette state, as a single plane appears and flies across the horizon line, doomed to repeat its fated flight path in eternal recurrence.” —P.S


First gallery (lobby to the right)


The “Digital Painting” series (2012-2013)

dimensions variable, silent, 47” LCD display

Notes from the artist: “Being an artist who has spent a great deal of his adult life exploring the haptic sense of the (treated and untreated) patinas of film texture and film grain, I have approached the squared off geometries of the digital domain with some degree of reluctance and aesthetic caution. In the past few months, however, I have been employing, various orchestrated chance operations, a sort of digi-roulette wheel - and almost accidentally bumped into what I can begin to think of as a possible “pixel aesthetic” - something that perhaps Cézanne, Francis Bacon or Klimt might have appreciated.


Main Room


American Falls (2000-2012)

3 channel HD video, 5.1 surround sound, 3072X768 file, split into 3 projectors, dimensions variable, 56 minutes

“American Falls is a three channel, 5.1-surround installation originally commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was inspired by a trip that I took to the capital at the invitation of the Corcoran in 1999, where I first encountered Frederick Church's great painting Niagara; took note of a multichannel video installation being projected onto the walls of the Corcoran rotunda; and went on walking tours of various monuments to the "fallen" throughout the DC area. The architecture of the rotunda in the vicinity of Niagara invited me to muse on creating an all-enveloping, manmade "falls", re-imagined as a WPA/Diego Rivera cine-mural, where the mediated images of the American Dream that I had been absorbing since childhood would flow together into the river with the roaring turbulence of America's failures to sustain the myths and ideals so deeply embedded in the received iconography." - PS Credits:Conception and direction - Phil Solomon Sound design - Wrick Wolff,, with additional sound design by Robert Rich and Phil Solomon Alchemy - Phil Solomon, Jessica Betz, and Katie Konrad Optical printing - Phil Solomon and Jessie Marek / Technical advisor - Christopher Osborn


Mid Area (right)


Muybridge at the Falls (2013)

16:9 HD video, silent, dimensions variable, 6 minute loop

“American Falls was originally commissioned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and opened in 2010, running for three months concurrently with a major retrospective of the photographic work of the father of cinema, Eadweard Muybridge organized by Philip Brookman. In recognition of this wonderful coincidence, the original version of the Falls included a great deal of Muybridge material that was subsequently deleted from later incarnations. For this exhibit, I’ve decided to resurrect some of that chemically treated Muybridge footage and create several loops that amplify the beautiful dance between the altered states of the film emulsion and the strange, studied inhabitants, creatures of motion all, graphed within his frame.”


Mid Area (left)


The Emblazoned Apparitions (2013)

color, sound, HD 16:9 video, variable dimensions, 5 minutes

Commissioned by filmmaker Chuck Workman for his feature length film What is Cinema?, The Emblazoned Apparitions is essentially my 5 minute answer to that question. It begins with the suggestions of radio transmissions, moves through the Lumiere brothers and continues through Chaplin, Keaton, Edison, Houdini and much more. All the while, inside jokes abound.


Large Back Room (far right)


Recent Work from the Video Game Series Psalm IV: Valley of the Shadow (2013)

HD video, 16:9, stereo sound, dimensions variable, 7 mins

Valley of the Shadow is part of the Twilight Series, which include titles borrowed from the great television series of the 1960s, The Twilight Zone. Originally aired in 1963, Valley of the Shadow follows a reporter, Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) as he gets trapped in a small town in Peaceful Valley New Mexico. Redfield only stopped in the town after getting lost on desert roads, but after witnessing a secret mechanical device that can control and rearrange atoms—making things appear and disappear, assemble and reassemble—he’s held against his will. The audio track for Solomon’s version includes clips from John Huston’s adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead (1987). “I didn’t want the sound to be audible at first. Like all my work, I’m always trying to block the light, or in this case, the sound, to let in only fragments.” --PS


Small Back Room (far left)


Early Works:

A SelectionThe Snowman (1995)

16mm, monophonic sound, 8 min, 4:3 digital video translation

“A meditation on memory, burial and decay. A belated kaddish for my father.” -PS


One must have a mind of winter

To regard the frost and the boughs

Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind,

In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land

Full of the same wind

That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

--Wallace Stevens


The Snow Man Remains to be Seen (1989/94)

super-8 sound blown up to 16mm, monophonic sound, 17 min, 4:3 digital video translation

“In the melancholic Remains to Be Seen, dedicated to the memory of Solomon’s mother, the scratchy rhythm of a respirator intones menace. The film, optically crisscrossed with tiny eggshell cracks, often seems on the verge of shattering. The passage from life into death is chartered by fugitive images: pans of an operating room, an old home movie of a picnic, a bicyclist in vague outline against burnt orange and blue … Solomon measures emotions with images that seem stolen from a family album of collective memory.” (Manohla Dargis, Village Voice)


The Exquisite Hour (1989, revised 1994)

16mm, color, sound, 14 minutes, monophonic sound, 4:3 digital video translation

“Partly a lullaby for the dying, partly a lament at the dusk of cinema. Based on the song by Reynaldo Hahn and Paul Verlaine.” -PS


The Exquisite Hour

The white moon / shines in the woods.From each branch / springs a voice / beneath the arbor. Oh my beloved... Like a deep mirror / the pond reflectsthe silhouette / of the black willow / where the wind weeps. Let us dream! It is the hour... A vast and tender / calm seems to descend / from a sky / made iridescent by the moon. It is the exquisite hour!- Paul Verlaine


(music by Reynaldo Hahn)

From the artist: Inspirations: Caspar David Friedrich, Edward Hopper, Georges Seurat (drawings), Janie and Lewis, and all of the filmmakers alluded to or borrowed from.


Young Projects is exceptionally proud to present Phil Solomon: Before and After the Falls. Mr Solomon’s work has been included in two Whitney Biennials and has been the subject of 3 solo shows at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. His films have won 10 first prize awards at major international film festivals for experimental film (including six Juror's Awards from the Black Maria Film and Video Festival). Today his films are included in the permanent collections of the MoMA, The Chicago Art Institute, the Oberhausen Film Collection and a number of important institutions. In recognition of his film art, Mr. Solomon has also been named a United States Artists (USA) Knight Fellow at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, CA and became the winner of their $50,000 grant in 2012. He was also awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1993), a Creative Capital Grant (2000, 2001), The Thatcher Hoffman Smith Award (2007), and The Stan Brakhage Vision Award. He is currently Professor of Film Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.


As one of the key filmmakers of the American avant-garde, Phil Solomon is known for his ability to extraordinarily beautiful, deeply affecting film works that are often composed out of abandoned or lost pieces of celluloid. In many cases, these works employ an optical printing process to further degrade, burn and amplify certain figurative elements, almost to the point of pure abstraction. And indeed, one could easily view many of his films as great painterly efforts with pronounced sensual and dimensional qualities. Yet no matter what format Mr Solomon works in — including his recent foray into the most quotidian moments of Grand Theft Auto and other video games (many of which are included in the exhibit) — his work still manages to convey a distinct, and often moving, narrative quality. As critic Manohla Dargis writes, “The wow factor of Mr. Solomon's finest films can be as difficult to convey as the deep feeling they instill in the viewer. One of the pleasures of this sort of work is how it can loosen the grip that narrative traditionally has on the medium, inspiring different ways of seeing and feeling.”


Nowhere is that better seen than in his monumental 3-channel work, American Falls, which is being shown for the first time on the West Coast. Inspired by Frederick Church’s painting of Niagara Falls, the film explores the idea of ‘the fall’ on multiple levels—politically, cinematically, aesthetically and poetically. Yet in the end, the work achieves something truly profound.  As Tony Pipolo writes: It is impossible to do justice here to the juxtapositions and permutations of these images, or to the aching beauty and emotional resonances of this work. More than any other independent film or video I can think of from the past decade, American Falls invokes the specter of a nation whose present unraveling is all too rooted in its history. Anyone still touched by the poetic viability of the avant-garde should not miss this opportunity to see it.”


From the artist: “Very special thanks to Melissa Kristl, whose insights and support helped to make this possible for me to do.” From the Gallery: Special thanks to Michael Haussman, who’s technical support made the exhibition possible.




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