89 Seconds at Alcazar (video detail), 2005
Courtesy artist

Eve Sussman
89 Seconds at Alcázar
20 January - 27 February 2005

Rice Gallery is pleased to present Eve Sussman’s acclaimed video installation 89 Seconds at Alcázar from January 20 - February 27, 2005. Sussman’s work (a 12-minute loop), which premiered at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, is a lavish and evocative re-creation of the moments leading up to and immediately following the scene portrayed in the beloved masterpiece Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) painted by Diego Velásquez in 1656. Sussman used cutting edge high definition video technology to give her work its rich, nuanced feel, and special equipment loaned by Microsoft Corporation will allow Rice Gallery to present the work in high definition. The opening reception on Thursday, January 20, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm will feature remarks by Eve Sussman at 6:00. The event is free and open to the public. More information may be obtained by calling Rice Gallery, 713.348.6069, and by visiting ricegallery.org.

89 Seconds at Alcázar brings Velásquez’s painting Las Meninas to life. Shot in high definition digital video, a 360º Steadicam take reveals the entire scene in the salon of the Alcázar (Palace of the Hapsburgs). Actors play King Philip IV and his wife Mariana of Austria, their daughter the Princess Margarita, along with the servants, Valasquez himself, two dwarves, and a Spanish mastiff. Sussman’s inspiration for the video was her first glimpse of Las Meninas at Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid where she was amazed at the snapshot-like quality of the painting, which predates photography by centuries. “Any gesture, at any point, is interesting,” notes the artist. “You can take any minute and a half from the whole [89 Seconds at Alcázar] piece, and it does the same thing. It’s some moment coming together and falling apart.”

Rather than re-create Las Meninas, Sussman used it as a point of departure for improvisation and artistic revision while staying faithful to the time period in which it was created. Eve Sussman and choreographer, Claudia de Serpa Soares, collaborated with the actors to invent the action in the room. The piece is fundamentally a fluid choreography; each gesture in the video implies weight and narrative much as the original gestures Velázquez captured. The shooting took place over four days in May 2003 in a garage space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and required a month of set and costume design. Sussman and Rebecca Graves collaborated on the creation of the setting that accurately captured 17th century Spain. Their research included studying the 1660 architectural plans of the palace with consulting architect Robert Whalley in order to recreate accurately the scale of the room in the Alcázar. Costume designer Karen Young’s recreation of the Baroque wardrobe for the eleven actors began with research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and in the exhibition Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting (2003).


Born in London in 1961, Eve Sussman is an American citizen. She received a B.A. in Fine Arts from Bennington College, Vermont in 1984, and attended the Skowhegan School, Maine in 1989. Recent exhibitions in which Sussman has participated include The Whitney Biennial (2004), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Paper Sculpture Show (2003), Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, and Eye Stalk (2002), Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn. In 2002, Sussman received a New York State Council on the Arts Media Production Grant and in 2000, she received a Jerome Foundation Grant. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.