Brad Pitt, Actor
Wilson’s 2004 video portrait of Brad Pitt depicts the actor – at the time of his peak heart throb status – dressed only in boxer shorts and socks, standing in the rain. To a soundtrack of the American poet Christopher Knowles’s reading his own text and accompanied by the music of Michael Galasso, Pitt is transformed from a figure of masculine menace to something more ambivalent at the ‘punchline’. The inclusion of the water pistol references the great Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock and his trademark gesture of ‘shooting’ water directly at the camera from a water pistol when introducing films on television. This combination of dramatic action, cinematic reverence and humour coalesces in a cyclic rhythm.
The portrait is exhibited with two chairs by Scottish furniture designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Pitt is a collector and designer of chairs – a characteristic he shares with Wilson -- and his own creations are inspired by Mackintosh and the early twentieth-century designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Narelle Autio’s photograph from her series The summer of us features a discarded and formerly submerged water pistol found as detritus on a beach.
Isabella Rossellini, Actor
In this video portrait Wilson transforms the Italian–American actor Isabella Rossellini into the Japanese manga heroine Sailor Moon, styled in the fashion of a Harajuku girl. Created by Naoko Takeuchi, the cartoon series was published between 1991 and 1997. Wilson’s portrait of Rossellini emphasises the hyperactive and compulsive, with the editing a loop of fast-forwards, repeats and slowdowns increasing the speed of the manga. As a result, the actor’s smile, laugh and eye movements are as unnatural as a glitching robot, with the jazz drumming of Henri René & His Orchestra creating a frenetic whole.
Exhibited on an adjoining wall is the Japanese colour woodblock print by Kunisada Utagawa II of the actor Segawa Kikunojo as the nun cat from The dog storybook, the tale of eight dog heroes from 1852. These dynamic prints of actors (always male) are seen as precursors to the visual language of contemporary manga.
Dita Von Teese, Burlesque Performer
Wilson’s video portrait of the burlesque dancer Heather Renée Sweet, known by her stage name Dita Von Teese, shows her exercising extreme discipline – unmoving, holding a seductive pose perched on a swing. Teese epitomises the polished glamour and exaggerated femininity of her 1940s and 1950s idols and the burlesque tradition in which dancers perform a striptease as part of a dance routine. The dancer, model, fashion designer, author and businesswoman is in full control, her effort disguised by her flawless appearance. Teese is accompanied by the voice of Ethel Merman, the early twentieth-century American actor and singer. Wilson has said ‘the still life is a real life’.
In contrast to the self-possession of Teese, the works depicting dancers by Léon Bakst and Pat Brassington express the physical and emotional release of movement. Bakst’s watercolour shows Luisa Casati, the daughter of a Milanese industrialist who married a Roman aristocrat in the early twentieth century. She was one of the most extravagant and colourful celebrities of the belle époque, often attending parties with her pet cheetahs and a live snake as a bracelet or necklace. The joyous figure in Brassington’s The Long Goodbye is reminiscent of Loie Fuller, the American actress and radical pioneer of modern dance and theatrical lighting of the art nouveau who was sometimes called the ‘magician of light’.