peter campus, Three Transitions, 1973 / Video still
peter campus: Three Transitions
Oct 27 – Dec 16, 2023
Cristin Tierney Gallery
New York City, USA

Created in 1973, the video work Three Transitions was produced at Boston’s WGBH-TV public television station through their “New Television Workshop” fellowship program. Since its initial presentation at Bykert Gallery that same year, Three Transitions has been exhibited at numerous institutions, including Jeu de Paume, Culturgest, British Film Institute, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, among many others. campus’ study of form transcended this then-new medium of video art and has influenced generations of artists ever since.

In honor of this iconic work’s 50th anniversary, this fall Cristin Tierney Gallery will present an exhibition dedicated to exploring campus’ ground-breaking video. Additionally, the gallery will produce a short documentary about the work.

The action in Three Transitions unfolds as follows. First, using two cameras situated on opposite sides of a paper wall, campus creates the illusion of cutting into and stepping through his own body. In the second sequence, he uses chroma key blue paint, a predecessor to the green screen technique, to coat his face and reveal another image of his own face. In the final segment, campus sets a chroma key blue sheet of paper on fire that shows a simultaneous view of his face burning until all that is left is darkness.

Three Transitions is formal in its approach, focused on perception, color, and the figure/ground relationship. No narrative is presented. Themes of cognitive psychology, identity construction, and existentialism are readily apparent. Three Transitions juxtaposes evocative imagery to emphasize the disconnect between the interior subject and exterior object, integrating form and content in a novel way. As time unfolds and the piece progresses, it becomes apparent that the physical spaces recorded by the camera are metaphors for psychological ones.

Three Transitions has been exhibited by renowned institutions worldwide and is included in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Julia Stoschek Foundation, Williams College Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and The ZKM: Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, among others.

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