New Works: 99.4
About the Artist
Isaac Julien was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. Since
receiving his BFA from St. Martin School of Art, he has explored the complexities of
identity and desire in several media, including film, installation and cultural theory, and
has greatly impacted the discourses on post-colonial and queer theory.
His films include Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996), the Cannes
prize-winning Young Soul Rebels (1991) and the acclaimed poetic documentary
Looking for Langston (1989). Recent video installations have been shown at the
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Canada; The
Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England; Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki,
Finland; and The Museum Of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland. Julien is represented by the
Victoria Miro Gallery in London, where he recently held a one-person exhibit.
As a scholar he has taught in both graduate and undergraduate programs at
University of California, Santa Cruz, New York University and University of Oxford
among many others. He is currently a visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Schools of
Afro-American and Visual and Environmental Studies. His work on Frantz Fanon led to
the New York University and the Ford Foundation's 1997 conference exploring an
interdisciplinary approach to research on post-colonial history and theory.
Julien's project at ArtPace will travel to Kansas City to be exhibited at Grand Arts in
Winter 2000. Later in 2000, Bard College's Center for Curatorial Studies will present a
survey of Julien's film work, which will be accompanied by a catalog containing Julien's
About the Installation
At ArtPace, Isaac Julien presents a three-channel video installation/sculpture, The
Road to Mazatlan, a collaboration with London-based dancer and choreographer
Javier de Frutos. Mazatlan is a performance and meditation on masculinity and
desire and in relation to the American landscape within the mythologies of the West.
Shot in San Antonio, Texas, the project was co-commissioned by ArtPace and Grand
Arts, Kansas City, MO.
Mazatlan explores the mythologies of the American West, the iconic figure of the
Cowboy and its trajectory within gay culture. References to Andy Warhol's film,
Lonesome Cowboys, Robert DeNiro's performance as Travis Bickle in Martin
Scorcese's Taxi Driver and imagery from David Hockney's Swimmer
reinforce the cinematic aspects of the installation. While Julien's previous work focused
on the complexity of Black identity, his project at ArtPace deliberately focuses on
representations of Whiteness, with the aim of creating disturbing, emotional readings and
subverting preconceptions of race and sexuality.
The Western landscape is the backdrop for Julien's explorations of cowboy stereotypes in
the iconic locations of the American West: swimming pools, drive-in motels, the desert
sky, Tex-Mex bars, Mariachi performances. Each location bespeaks the performer's
gestures and embodies the characters' movements and dance. The relationship between
the film's two protagonists plays out as movement and space define desire through
As sculpture, the minimalist case for the back-projected videos celebrates it mass and
scale. From the front, the moving images become a triptych painting; from other
perspectives, the form becomes a piece of architecture that draws on industrial
In Mazatlan, nothing can be taken at face value? triptych format of
multi-channel projection renders the viewing and reading process more complex. Time
and space shift, heightening the emotional relationships between the film's characters
and locations and between the location of the viewer and the constructed images.
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