Woody Vasulka

Woody Vasulka (b. 1937) was a pioneering video artist, staring his career in the 1960s. He studied engineering in Brno before moving to Prague in 1960, where he graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts as a filmmaker. In 1964 he married Steina and a year later they moved to New York where they worked in the emerging field of video art and electronic media.

They exhibited video at the Whitney Museum and founded The Kitchen in 1971, which has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape in the US. It was among the very first American institutions to embrace the emerging fields of video, performance, and cross-disciplinary explorations. An internationally acclaimed institution, the Kitchen is one of New York’s oldest and most active nonprofit art centers, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence. Together, the Vasulkas also worked to develop the Center for Media Studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where Woody became a video professor. His vast body of work includes seminal documentaries, but his main focus has been on the use of electronic media in art. He has produced extensive series of videos, some of which can be seen as cataloging the possibilities of new media, akin to Bach’s explorations of the fugue or György Kurtág’s ongoing series of pedagogical compositions, Játekók, exploring the potential of simple tonal and rhythmic combinations. Despite the pedagogical flavor of some of his work, Woody’s background as a documentary film maker and modernist poet often shines through, in highly personal and almost narrative pieces that transcend the technical methodology of their production and are among the most expressive works of video art ever made.

He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1979 and has received many other honors and awards for his art. His work has been shown in major museums all over the world. In 2014, the Vasulka Chamber, a center of electronic and digital art in Iceland, was established at the National Gallery of Iceland. The Vasulka Chamber is a collaboration with Steina and Woody Vasulka, and includes a part of the Vasulkas’ archive. Later in 2015 the Vasulka Kitchen, a center for new media art in Brno, Woody’s hometown was founded, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the artist, who passed in December 2019.

Other BERG Contemporary artists