Isaac Julien: Stones Against Diamonds

Rolls-Royce Art Programme, Miami, 2015
1 - 5 December 2015

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, in partnership with the National YoungArts Foundation, will present the North American debut of Isaac Julien’s work Stones Against Diamonds (Ice Cave) during Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015. The work, commissioned as part of the Rolls‑Royce Art Programme, will be shown from 1-5 December 2015 at the National YoungArts Foundation ­– located at the nexus of Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, Arts and Entertainment District and Edgewater. The video installation will fill the interior of the magnificent YoungArts Jewel Box across 15 screens, the largest and most impressive presentation of the work to date.


The work was inspired by a passage from a letter taken from the anthology Stones Against Diamonds, written by the seminal modernist architect and designer, the Italian-born Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi. Julien’s work of the same name explores themes within this text where Bo Bardi admires the beauty of natural elements over precious stones, believing them to be more beautiful, and describing how collecting semi-precious stones helped inspire the architect and designer to rethink design in a most remarkable way. Signature elements of Bo Bardi’s work have left a lasting impression on both international architects and designers. Julien's film installation incorporates her famed spiral staircase at Solar do Unhão in Bahia, Brazil; the first stage meticulously built on set in sub-zero temperatures, later continued and then merged using CGI post-production. Furthering the parallels, Julien includes Bo Bardi’s signature easels which are made of glass and concrete, two elements present in the majority of her practice. Julien references these in both the film itself and in the presentation of his work, where the film is shown on flat screens and supported by concrete blocks.

Vanessa Myrie, an actress and performer who has worked on several of Julien’s previous projects such as True North (2004) and Western Union: Small Boats (2007), appears within the piece as a ‘spirit guide’, making reference to the Spirit of Ecstasy, the ornament that adorns the bonnet of each Rolls-Royce motor car. As if sleepwalking, Myrie takes the viewer on a mesmerising journey across a symbolic landscape of glaciers, rocks and black volcanic sands, all glistening like diamonds. Julien uses this to remind us not only of the earth’s fragility – the melting of the glacier which carves out these caves – but also that some of the most beautiful objects are the least precious in a conventional sense.

The work will be shown within the landmark Jewel Box at the National YoungArts Foundation campus in Miami. The Jewel Box, designed by Ignacio Carrera-Justiz in 1973, features an exterior covered in thick hammered stained glass ‘tapestries,’ and is based on an abstract painting by German artist Johannes Dietz. 

The National YoungArts Foundation, identifies and supports the next generation of artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts; assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development; and raises appreciation for the arts in American society. YoungArts has been a partner of Rolls-Royce NA since 2014.

Originally shown as a preview during the 56th edition of La Biennale di Venezia, the film installation had its public debut during Art Basel in Basel 2015 before being shown at The Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, England.


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