Ben Whitehouse is an artist who cares deeply about the environment and our relationship to it. From painting to video Ben has spent the last twenty-five years seeking new ways to express how connected and delicately balanced it is. Here you can find out more about the ideas behind the work. Click on an image below to begin.
In 2006 Whitehouse began the Revolution Series to create a new art that fully engaged the reality of time-space and the idea that "We inhabit a dynamic, changing environment in which each day, if looked at properly, is a unique symphony of causally related moments". (Visual Vivaldi, Broadcast, 2015) . Shot from a fixed camera each Revolution is fully twenty-four hours long to capture a complete twenty-four hour cycle in the life of the composition. Unlike time elapsed art, in which frames are captured at a slow rate and then played back to give the effect of time appearing to move faster, Revolutions are single, continuous twenty-four hour captures and are experienced in the same amount of time, twenty-four hours or one revolution of the planet. The clips provided here are short three minute clips showing random scenes extracted from the full work to give a sense of some of the transitions that take place within them. Revolutions are something of a first - the first uninterrupted twenty-four hours long videos ever made.
Making twenty-four hour videos has its challenges. Whitehouse uses broadcast quality cameras that require vigilant attention at all times. An entire recording studio must be erected on site. If things go smoothly a Revolution takes about thirty-two hours of constant attention from set up to take down but things rarely go smoothly. Wonderful unexpected things happen also, such as the pre-dawn arrival of hundreds of Druids in ceremonial clothes, many wielding swords, during the creation of Revolution Stonehenge. Moments of their solstice ceremony can be seen in the clip to the left. To date there are fourteen Revolutions in the series.
Revolution Central Park, Ben Whitehouse, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution Stonehenge, Ben Whitehouse, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution North Bar Lake, Ben Whitehouse, 24 hours (clip)
Times Square Installation
McNay Art Museum
Crocker Art Museum
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Arkansas Art Center
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Chapel installation, First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette
Chicago Cultural Center
Evanston Art Center
Watch Series paintings are twenty four hour paintings made from direct observation of changing light in the sky over complete day/night cycles. They are sometimes made in conjunction with the making of Revolution videos (twenty-four hour videos). Some Watches take the form of twenty-four discrete observations made on the hour, every hour on separate panels. Others are continuous paintings on circular panels in which case the observed light changes are experienced as a seamless shift of the hue and value or as abrupt bands of light as when a storm flashes through the space. In either case Watch paintings are made from close, direct observation of sky light changing over time.
Whitehouse has always been interested in the physics of light, the way it behaves as both particle and wave and in theories of space/time. The Watch Series reflects some of these ideas in the different ways the pieces are configured when installed. Watch over the Water offers an image of light as both particle and wave, for example. Watch over Time strongly suggests the idea of a time as a cyclical event and with its vector configuration, Watch Forward offers an image of time as a relentless progression forward.
Forward Looking, Oil on twenty four 4" x 4" Panels, 4" x 104"
Watch over Time, Oil on three 48" Diameter Panels, 48" x 180"
Watch over Time, detail
Watch over the Water, Oil on twenty four 3" x 3" Panels, 50" x 100"
Watch over Central Park, forty-eight 4" x 4" panels, 60" x 120 (studio installation)
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts Installation
Evanston Art Center Installation
Tarble Art Center, Eastern Illinois University
"Watching light relationships evolve on the horizons of oceans and great lakes has to be one of the most spectacular light shows planet earth has to offer. Sometimes the sky and water relationships are incredibly subtle, barely differentiated at all. Sometimes they are dramatic - bizarre even. At times the juxtaposition of values and hues is so unexpected I wonder if anyone will ever believe them". - Studio notes, Aug/2006
Unlike Revolution and Watch pieces which are twenty-four hour responses to evolving experience and changing light, Horizons are executed extremely quickly since Whitehouse's objective is to capture fleeting relationships of light on the water and in the sky at the horizon of the world's oceans and great lakes. For Horizons, Whitehouse developed a quick response technique so he could avoid the fiction of impressionist painting that caused Monet, Sisley and Renoir so much dismay. (As we now know, the effects these great artists claimed to make from observation were largely painted from memory because the scope of their compositions were often too complicated to manage from observation in real time.) Whitehouse designed special light boxes and painting stages to allow him to react both quickly and accurately at all times of day and night.
From a formal point of view Horizons is obviously indebted to colour field painting but rather than freeing colour from objective context Whitehouse has gone the other way, tying the painting tightly to observed light relationships while at the same time making works that straddle the line between deep space and flatness. In recognition of the fact that no-one but the viewer can ever be in their exact eye space Whitehouse chose the diptych form so as to leave the exact moment where sky meets water open as an invitation to the viewer to complete the work themselves.
Horizons installation, Alfedena
Sunrise, Oil on Panel, 28" x 32"
Dawn, Oil on Panel, 28" x 32"
"Revolution, Horizons and Watch come from the same impulse - to explore a sense of place as a constantly evolving experience in which everything is connected and brought into being by that which just came before. To miss this truth is not only to miss the meaning and value of being in the world but actually dangerous because it allows us the intellectual space to imagine we can exist in environments without changing them." - Studio notes, 2013
“Whitehouse's works are beautifully conceived and meticulously executed visual art works... They can be seen in a minute or studied for hours and they reward the viewer in direct relation to the time spent viewing them.” Maxine Gaiber, Executive Director, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
“The changes in the New York piece are especially beautiful, as the park’s entire South-to-North expanse is dappled by light that breaks through clouds as ambient sound wafts up from streets. Since the changes are experienced in actual time, the pieces achieved heightened intensity from having had the “real” world given a sharper focus by the frame Whitehouse put around them”. Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune
“Whitehouse employs a rather taut paint handling reminiscent at times of the pale, summery Impressionism of early Alfred Sisley, or of the landscapes of William Merritt Chase. Like nature, this work abides, and its pertinence resides in the inexhaustible relevance of its fundamental aspiration: to try to find again in the surrounding world a harmony that passes understanding, a manner of thinking of nature as meta-and paraphysical home”. James Yood, Artforum
“Ben Whitehouse’s videos, installations, paintings and photographs revolve around the ineffable relationship between the ocular and the ontological. His prolonged observations of the subtle shifts in atmospheric conditions result in evocative meditations on transitions in time as perceived through light.” - John Brunetti, Director, Alfedena
Revolution North Bar Lake, Ben Whitehouse, 24 hours (clip)
Revolutions are not time-elapsed art but rather single captures shot over twenty four hours and viewed in the same amount of time - twenty four hours or one revolution of the planet. Nothing is edited and not a second is missing. Shown here is a short three minute edited clip to show some of the transitions that take place in the full work.
Watch Series installation, Alfedena
Watch is a series of twenty-four and forty-eight hour paintings made from observation of changing sky light over spaces like Central Park and Stonehenge.
Horizons Series Installation, Alfedena
Horizons capture fleeting relationships of light on the water and in the sky at the horizon of the world's oceans and great lakes.
Revolution Central Park, Ben Whitehouse, 24 hours (clip)
Revolution North Bar Lake installation, Times Square
Times Square Installation of Revolution North Bar Lake
Solo Shows and Installations
2014 EAC. 2012/13 Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA. Perimeter Gallery, Chicago. 2010 McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX. Perimeter Gallery, Chicago. 2009 Arkansas Art Center. 2008 Tarble Art Center, Eastern Illinois University. 2007 Alfedena, Chicago. Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. David Klein Gallery. 2006 Times Square, NY. 2005 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2003 Grand Rapids Art Museum. 2002 Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, Chicago. 2001 Gallery Henoch, NY. Waller Museum, IL. 1998 Chicago Cultural Center 1996 Capstick-Dale Gallery, NY
2013 Encountering Nature, Towson University. 2010 GRAM at Oxbow, Grand Rapids Art Museum. 2008 HereThereEverywhere, Chicago Cultural Center. Timescape, Alfedena, Chicago. 2007 Inland See, Western Michigan University. 2006 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2005 Tory Folliard, WI. Gallery Henoch, NY. 2004 Gallery Henoch, NY. Belloc Lowndes Fine Art. 2003 Gallery Henoch, NY. 2002 J. Cacciola Gallery, NY. Gallery Henoch, NY. 2001 Evanston Art Center, IL. Gallery Henoch, NY. Barat College, IL. 2000 Gallery Henoch, NY. Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, Chicago. 1999 Flowers East, London. 1998 Capstick-Dale Fine Art, NY. 1995 The Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. 1994 Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, London. 1993 Hollis Taggert Gallery, DC. Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, London. 1991 Smart Museum of Art
Solo show, EAC, 2014
Times Square installation, 2006/7
Solo Show, Alfedena, 2007
Projections for Symphonic Performance
ESO Music Director Stephen Alltop commissioned Whitehouse to make a series of video projections to accompany live symphonic performances of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
Projection for Concerto No. 1 in E Major, "Spring" (Allegro)
Projection for Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, "Summer" (Adagio e piano)
Projection for Concerto No. 3 in F Major, "Autumn" (Allegro)
Projection for Concerto No. 4 in F minor, The "Winter" Movements
The 1990 Art Institute of Chicago exhibition "Monet in the 90's" had a big impact on Whitehouse as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. It was the first time many of the series works had been exhibited together since Monet first created them a hundred years before. “Seeing the Grainstacks lined up on the wall, the idea of the paintings as film frames (and the spaces between them as missing frames) became apparent to me,” Whitehouse said in an interview with Artmatters. “I hadn’t fully considered the filmic qualities of Monet’s project prior to that time and wondered how I could account for the transitional experiences of natural phenomena effectively in my own work.” By the early 90’s Whitehouse had developed a practice of making on-site studies in pencil, charcoal, painting and video and then using them as cues to memory to help with the making of the full scale paintings which were often ten feet wide or more. He relied on the short video sketches "to help me understand the life of the place. From them I could study closely how waves formed and dissipated through a particular space, how clouds coalesced and evaporated in a given sky on a given day and I could study the movement of the grasses in the breeze". (1) He would then attempt to "congeal" all he had learned into the painting so that it would stand not as a still or frozen image but as one resonant with a sense of time passing, a sense of what had just happened and what might happen next. "Looking back I was trying to turn painting into film."
James Yood had this to say in Artforum (Feb 2003) "Whitehouse employs a rather taut paint handling reminiscent at times of the pale, summery Impressionism of early Alfred Sisley, or of the landscapes of William Merritt Chase. His brushstrokes accrete patiently and unobtrusively, seemingly in accord with the scene he represents, reinforcing an air of equanimity and calm. His composition, too, with its tendency toward classical construction-framing elements, ease of access, parity of light and dark, etc.-presents the landscape as a realm of balance and logic. Whitehouse`s activity, like the scenes he represents, seems almost outside time, indifferent to the fashions of art or the vagaries of the contemporary. Like nature, this work abides, and its pertinence resides in the inexhaustible relevance of its fundamental aspiration: to try to find again in the surrounding world a harmony that passes understanding, a manner of thinking of nature as meta- and paraphysical home."
Treetops, Oil on Canvas, 72" x 96", Collection of the Grand Rapids Art Museum