Bill Viola - New Now New York Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "Moving images take time, and that is what I hope I can give to the viewer; time for reflection and most importantly, for self-reflection."
    —Bill Viola

    Performed by Jeff Mills and Lisa Rhoden, two actors who frequently reappear in Bill Viola’s filmic oeuvre, Ablutions is a meditative experience. One of seven works depicting the Purification series, the present work is a symbol of spiritual rebirth. Each of the seven parts are film diptychs that depict different stages of the couple’s sacrifice and rebirth, and Ablutions is the fourth from the series (the order is as follows: The Approach; The Arrival; The Disrobing; Ablutions; Basin of Tears and Dissolution). The two actors, each occupying one screen, are shown washing their hands, in a slow, repeated motion. The mesmerizing tranquility of Ablutions recalls the idea of cleansing one’s soul, an effect that is often present in Viola’s works. “My work is a catharsis for me. I deal with the fragility of the human condition: birth, death, transcendence, revelation, suffering. Sometimes this room becomes unbearably claustrophobic and I break down. Other times it is pure ecstasy. Either way the most important dimension in this room is not physical—it is the passage of time.”i 


    i Bill Viola, quoted in “Interview with Bill Viola: An encounter between art and Faith at St Paul's,” The Art Newspaper, January 31, 2010, online

    • Provenance

      James Cohan Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, James Cohan Gallery, Bill Viola, November 5–December 22, 2005 (another example exhibited)
      Kunstmuseum Bern; Cathedral of Bern, Bill Viola: Passions, April 12–July 20, 2014, pp. 34, 35 (another example exhibited and illustrated on the cover, p. 34)
      Uppsala Domkyrka; Upssala Konstmuseum, Bill Viola: Visitation Reformation, September 1–November 5, 2017, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      Augsburg, St. Moritz Church, Bill Viola: Infinite Journey, March 9–September 1, 2019 (another example exhibited)
      Philadelphia, Barnes Foundation, I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like: The Art of Bill Viola, June 30–September 15, 2019, pp. 148–155, 170 (another example exhibited and illustrated, pp. 150–155)
      Barcelona, Casa Milà; Madrid, Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Bill Viola: Mirrors of the Unseen, October 4, 2019–January 10, 2021 (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Susan Moore, "The Ideological Modernist," Apollo, vol. 173, no. 588, June 2011, fig. 9, p. 62 (installation view of another example illustrated)



color high-definition video on LCD flat panel mounted vertically on wall, diptych
runtime: 7:01 minutes
performers: Lisa Rhoden and Jeff Mills

each panel 40 1/8 x 23 3/4 x 4 1/4 in. (101.9 x 60.3 x 10.8 cm)
installation dimensions approximately 40 1/8 x 47 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. (101.9 x 120.7 x 10.8 cm)

Executed in 2005, this work is number 6 from an edition of 7 plus 1 artist’s proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $81,900

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen
Head of Sale, New Now
212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2022