Spotlight on Intersections@5: Bernhard Hildebrandt

The Phillips celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Intersections contemporary art series with Intersections@5, an exhibition comprising work by 20 of the participating artists. In this blog series, each artist writes about his or her work on view.

Hildebrandt_Peter 4

Bernhard Hildebrandt, Peter-4, 2013. Archival inkjet mounted on Dibond, 45 x 80 in. Courtesy of the artist

The camera sees differently than the eye. This distinction is paramount and has long prompted reflection on visual perception as a way of making sense of the world. At the same time, critical writing on contemporary art has sought to map out the various ways that painting, photography, and film serve as a conceptual and often controversial source for one another.

My project examines what I identify as the “kinetic aura” of the Baroque canon. In particular, it investigates the idea of unfolding time through the mediums of photography and video. The work reveals some well-known effects of Baroque art by drawing some as yet unexplored parallels to film making.

Key Baroque themes are considered in a series of images and video looking at illusion and movement. Through analogy with contemporary photographic and cinematic perception, El Greco’s The Repentant St. Peter, can be made to reveal aspects that transcend its own time. His works are inherently imbued with spatial movement, high drama, spectacle and visceral appeal that lend themselves directly to the cinematographic.

Through this lens, El Greco’s The Repentant St. Peter is re-imagined as the repenting St. Peter. We see him actively engaged in his spiritual transmutation.

Bernhard Hildebrandt

Intersecting El Greco

El Greco, The Repentant St. Peter, between 1600 and 1614. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1922

El Greco, The Repentant St. Peter, between 1600 and 1614. Oil on canvas,
36 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1922

Baltimore-based artist Bernard Hildebrandt gives El Greco’s The Repentant St. Peter (1600-1614) a face lift (literally) in the new Intersections project at The Phillips Collection. Two things about this project are interesting to me: the sound that echoes across the room and the placement of the art work. The sound to me is like a low growl emanating from St. Peter’s mouth, an agonized groan. It is mesmerizing. Moreover, the work is shown in low lighting, giving the room an eerie atmosphere. The project sits right in the middle of the permanent collection. Just around the corner is the cheerful Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81) by Renoir.

El Greco was recalling the traditions of Byzantium icon paintings with his up-close view of the holy man’s face, but in the then-contemporary Baroque style depicting high drama and emotion. Hildebrandt brings El Greco’s work into the 21st century by converting a series of images into a new medium–video.

We will have a chance to hear more from Hildebrandt about the process behind his work in an Artist’s Perspective talk this Saturday, July 20, at 3 pm. I wonder what El Greco would have thought of the intersection?

Jane Clifford, Marketing Intern

Bernhard Hildebrandt, Peter, 2013 © 2013 Courtesy of the artist

Bernhard Hildebrandt, Peter, 2013 © 2013 Courtesy of the artist