This artist's work has appeared in the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Opera of New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. This fall, his work will be found in a very different locale: Nike stores.
Robert Wilson, the avant-garde theater director, artist and designer famed for collaborating with composer Philip Glass on the opera "Einstein on the Beach," as well as for his work on various other shows, museum installations and projects with David Byrne, Tom Waits, William Burroughs and Lou Reed, has recently created video portraits for Nike retail displays, with Beautiful Losers producer Noah Khoshbin.
The Nike Video Portraits are based on an approach to portraiture that Wilson has developed over the last few years. His video portraits infuse the traditional two-dimensional format with dramatic lighting, subtle movement and theatrical character techniques. From 2004, Wilson created video portraits of celebrities, Nobel Prize winners and animals—Brad Pitt, Alan Cumming and Mikhail Baryshnikov among them—with Voom HD networks, as a way to put his art directly into America's living rooms. Adam Glickman, current creative director of agency Suitmen and the founder of Tokion magazine, saw the potential of expanding these video portraits into the realm of youth culture, style and apparel, Wilson says. With its focus on art and the science of design, Nike seemed a likely fit.
To promote the shoemaker's new Sportswear line, Wilson created portraits of street athletes as well as the brand's iconic sneakers. The videos are edited to loop seamlessly, so they appear to have no beginning or end.
"Each portrait has its own story to tell," Wilson says. "We started with this idea of tapping into 35 years of Nike innovation, mining that history. Then, this theme of tapping and tap dancing started to evolve. Dance of course relates to my own work on the stage and to people I've worked extensively with--the tap dancing of the legendary Charles 'Honi' Coles to the rock beat of someone like Lou Reed."
Below, Wilson explains a few of the individual portraits from the series.