Marian Zazeela

Marian Zazeela

Marian Zazeela is a visual artist, musician, and Artistic Director of the MELA Foundation. She serves as artistic director of MELA along with the composer La Monte Young, with whom she is a major artistic collaborator on many projects including the Dream House Sound and Light Environment. She is a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath and teaches Kirana gharana at MELA's Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music. She lives in New York City.

Biographical Information

From the official MELA Foundation website:

Marian Zazeela is one of the first contemporary artists to use light as a medium of expression. Over four decades Zazeela has exhibited a unique iconographic vision in media encompassing painting, calligraphic drawing, graphics, film, light projection, sculpture and environment. Expanding the traditional concepts of painting and sculpture while incorporating elements of both disciplines, she developed an innovative visual language in the medium of light by combining colored light mixtures with sculptural forms to create seemingly three-dimensional colored shadows in radiant vibrational fields. Light and scale are manipulated in such a way that the colored shadows, in their apparent corporeality, become indistinguishable from the sculptural forms, enveloping the viewer in the continual interplay of reality and illusion. Her work has taken the directions of performance in Ornamental Lightyears Tracery, sculpture in the series Still Night and neon pieces, environment in Dusk/Dawn Adaptation, Magenta Day / Magenta Night and her major work Light, and video projection in Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals.

As artistic director of The Theatre of Eternal Music, she creates the works that forms the innovative visual components of Dream House, a sound and light work in which she collaborates with composer La Monte Young. Zazeela Dream Houses, light installations, performances and calligraphic drawing exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe. Major installations include the Whitney Museum, 2005 Lyon Biennale, Tate Liverpool; Pompidou Center, Paris; Ruine der Künste, Berlin; 44th Venice Biennale; Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf; MELA Foundation's "La Monte Young 30-Year Restrospective," New York City; and Köln Kunstverein. She has received grants from the NEA, EAT, CAPS, Lannan and Cassandra Foundations.

Under a commission from the Dia Art Foundation (1979-85), Zazeela and Young collaborated in a 6-year continuous Dream House presentation set in the 6-story Harrison Street building in New York City, featuring multiple interrelated sound and light environments, exhibitions, performances, research and listening facilities, and archives. Arts Magazine described the centerpiece of this installation: "There is a retreat to reverie as if one were staring up into the summer night sky. The Magenta Lights is experienced as a meteorological or astronomical event, a changing color display above one's head, like an art equivalent of the Northern Lights." And Artforum wrote: "Zazeela transforms material into pure and intense color sensations, and makes a perceptual ecounter a spiritual experience. The Magenta Lights is an environmental piece in every sense of the word. What Zazeela has represented is the subtle relationship between precision and spirituality."

From 1961 to 1962, Zazeela worked extensively with legendary filmmaker Jack Smith. She was the featured model in The Beautiful Book (dead language press, 1962). She appeared in Smith's revolutionary Flaming Creatures, which was written for her and for which she also created the film titles and credits calligraphy. In 1964, Zazeela was filmed for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests (Andy Warhol Screen Tests, Harry N. Abrams, 2006) and selected for his Thirteen Most Beautiful Women series.

In 1962, Zazeela began singing with La Monte Young as a founding member of The Theatre of Eternal Music, and performed as vocalist in almost every concert of the ensemble to date. In 1970, she became one of the first Western disciples of renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and has since performed and taught the Kirana style of Indian classical music. She accompanied Pandit Pran Nath in hundreds of concerts throughout the world and continues to perform with Young in their Just Alap Raga Ensemble.

Zazeela's one-year sound and light environment collaboration with Young, The Romantic Symmetry (over a 60 cycle base) in Prime Time from 112 to 144 with 119 / Time Light Symmetry (Dia Art Foundation, 22nd Street, NYC 1989-90) was acclaimed by Village Voice critic Kyle Gann as "some of the strangest and most forward-looking art New York has to offer." Her 1990 Donguy Gallery, Paris exhibition of light works, purchased by the French Cultural Ministry National Foundation of Contemporary Art (FNAC) for their permanent collection, was exhibited in 1999 on the entire top floor of the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, and in 2004-2005 at the Pompidou Centre in the exhibition Sons et Lumières. Zazeela's current long-term installation, Imagic Light, forms a part of Dream House: Seven+Eight Years of Sound and Light, which opened at MELA Foundation, New York in 1993 and will be on view through 2011. Sound and Light: La Monte Young / Marian Zazeela, published by Bucknell University Press in 1996, provides an in depth collection of primary source materials on her work.

At the invitation of the French government for La Beauté exhibition celebrating the year 2000, Young and Zazeela created a four-month Dream House in St. Joseph Chapen in Avignon. The installation featured the continuous DVD projection of the 1987 six-hour 24-minute performance of their collaborative masterwork, The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights, in a site-specific light environment created by Zazeela. The new art center, Kunst im Regenbogenstadl, Polling, Bavaria, presented a comprehensive solo exhibition of Zazeela's drawings from May through October 2000, accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog including reproductions of 71 works, essays, photographs and documentation. From May through October 2001 and 2002, Kunst im Regenbogenstadl initiated a long-term light installation designed by Zazeela, featuring The Well-Tuned Piano in The Magenta Lights DVD projection, two new sculptures from her Still Light series, an installation of Magenta Day / Magenta Night and her neon work, Dream House Variation III. The installation has continued through 2008 with the inclusion of a new video projection work, S Symmetry V. 1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals, based on her Word Portrait series.

Photo: La Monte Young, © 1992.

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