Tony Oursler is primarily known for his innovative combination of video, sculpture, and performance which explores the relationship between the individual and mass media systems with humor, irony, and imagination. He received a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1979.
This probably most famous art college of the West Coast, is the one that has proved of such an import for artists of his generation. Interviewed, he refers to the impact exerted upon him by artists such as Jonathan Borofsky, John Baldessari, Judy Pfaff, or Laurie Anderson – then lecturing at the 'Cal Art'. Himself does he suggest certain interpretative traces to art historians, recalling the literary connections of his family, and, a Catholic background.
He too mentions the influence of television, particularly, the MTV, a station whose special effects play a considerable role and to which artists of his generation have contributed. Tony Oursler animates non-living objects with the use of projectors.
Classified, along with Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman, Gary Hill and the like artists, among the most outstanding video creators, he has employed this technique in a totally different manner. In his works, a motion picture filmed with a video-camera is projected with a projector functioning on a laterna-magica basis as in the 19th-century theatre. The viewer does not stare at a rectangular screen, rather, s/he can see before him or her enlivened flowers, giant eye-balls, or puppets – talking, swearing at one another, quarrelling, and using coarse expressions. The contrast between the immovable, 'dead' bodies of the dolls and the aggressive, vulgar language not spared by their 'talking heads' add up to an unexpected dramatic power of this show.
He participated in the Documenta 8, 9, 10 series in Kassel, Germany.
Oursler’s work is represented in numerous U.S. and worldwide museum collections, including:
Museum of Modern Art, USA, NY
the Whitney Museum of American Art, USA, NY
the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, IL, Chicago
Tate Modern, Great Britain, London
Centre Georges Pompidou, France, Paris
He recently exhibited work in Glasstress at the 54th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, and will have an upcoming solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Korea in Seoul. Oursler lives and works in New York.