It looks as if it will be another banner year of thought-provoking and wide-ranging exhibitions during the coming year at The Whitney Museum of American Art. (And one should not expect any less.) Announcing the schedule for 2020 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, noted: “In 2020 the Whitney will celebrate its ninetieth anniversary and fifth year downtown, so we’ve created a program that truly honors the spirit of artistic innovation both past and present. We remain focused on supporting emerging and mid-career artists, while finding fresh relevance in historical surveys from across the twentieth century. Also turning ninety, Jasper Johns closes out the year with an unprecedented retrospective that will reveal this American legend as never before to a new generation of audiences.”
On February 17 the Museum opens Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945, a major historical look at the transformative impact of Mexican artists on the direction of American art from the mid-1920s until the end of World War II. On October 28, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a landmark retrospective of the work of Jasper Johns goes on view simultaneously at both museums, paying tribute to the foremost living American artist. In addition, the Whitney will devote exhibitions to Julie Mehretu and Dawoud Bey, prominent midcareer artists. The Mehretu exhibition, co-organized by the Whitney with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, encompasses over two decades of the artist’s work, presenting the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. In November, Dawoud Bey, one of the leading photographers of his generation, will receive his first full-scale retrospective, co-organized by the Whitney and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
The Museum will also present Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist—organized by the Phoenix Art Museum—the first exhibition of work by the visionary symbolist in nearly a quarter century; and Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, an unprecedented exhibition organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which chronicles the formative years of this collective of Black photographers who lived and worked in New York City. The year will also bring a range of focused exhibitions dedicated to emerging and midcareer artists, including Darren Bader, Jill Mulleady, Cauleen Smith, and Salman Toor, as well as Dave McKenzie and My Barbarian, who continue the Whitney’s commitment to performance and its many forms.
In September the Museum will also unveil David Hammons’s monumental public art installation Day’s End on Gansevoort Peninsula, across the street from the Whitney. The debut of this public artwork will be preceded by an exhibition entitled Around Day’s End: Downtown New York, 1970–1986, which will present a selection of works from the Museum’s collection related to the seminal work that inspired Hammons’s sculpture: Gordon Matta-Clark’s Day’s End (1975).
MAJOR EXHIBITIONS AND EVENTS
“Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945”, February 17–May 17, 2020
The cultural renaissance that emerged in Mexico in 1920 at the end of that country’s revolution dramatically changed art not just in Mexico but also in the United States. With approximately 200 works by sixty American and Mexican artists, Vida Americana reorients art history, acknowledging the wide-ranging and profound influence of Mexico’s three leading muralists—José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera—on the style, subject matter, and ideology of art in the United States made between 1925 and 1945. By presenting the art of the Mexican muralists alongside that of their American contemporaries, the exhibition reveals the seismic impact of Mexican art, particularly on those looking for inspiration and models beyond European modernism and the School of Paris.
Works by both well-known and underrecognized American artists will be exhibited, including Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Eitarō Ishigaki, Jacob Lawrence, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Thelma Johnson Streat, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff. In addition to Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, other key Mexican artists in the exhibition include Miguel Covarrubias, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, and Rufino Tamayo.
Organized by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator; Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant; and Alana Hernandez, former curatorial project assistant. (See previously-posted article here.)
Julie Mehretu, June 26–September 20, 2020
This mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu (b. 1970; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), co-organized by The Whitney with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), covers over two decades of the artist’s career and presents the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. Featuring approximately forty works on paper and more than thirty paintings dating from 1996 to today, the exhibition includes works ranging from her early focus on drawing and mapping to her more recent introduction of bold gestures, saturated color, and figuration. The exhibition will showcase her commitment to interrogating the histories of art, architecture, and past civilizations alongside themes of migration, revolution, climate change, and global capitalism in the contemporary moment. Julie Mehretu is on view at LACMA November 3, 2019–March 22, 2020, and following its presentation at the Whitney from June 26 through September 20, 2020, the exhibition will travel to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (October 24, 2020–January 31, 2021); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (March 13–July 11, 2021).
Julie Mehretu is curated by Christine Y. Kim, associate curator in contemporary art at LACMA, and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator at the Whitney.
Jasper Johns, Opens October 28, 2020
Jasper Johns (b. 1930) is arguably the most influential living American artist. Over the past sixty-five years, he has produced a radical and varied body of work marked by constant reinvention. In an unprecedented collaboration, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney will stage a retrospective of Johns’s career simultaneously across the two museums, featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints, many shown publicly for the first time. Inspired by the artist’s long-standing fascination with mirroring and doubles, the two halves of the exhibition will act as reflections of one another, spotlighting themes, methods, and images that echo across the two venues. A visit to one museum or the other will provide a vivid chronological survey; a visit to both will offer an innovative and immersive exploration of the many phases, facets, and masterworks of Johns’s still-evolving career.
This exhibition is co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The organizing curators are Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Public Art Project: David Hammons: Day’s End. Opens September 2020
Day’s End, a public art project by the immensely influential New York-based artist David Hammons (b. 1943), derives its inspiration and name from Gordon Matta-Clark‘s 1975 artwork in which he cut five openings into the original Pier 52 shed. Developed in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust, Hammons’s artwork will be an open structure that follows the outline, dimensions, and location of the original shed—and like Matta-Clark’s work, it will offer an extraordinary place to experience the waterfront and view the sunset. Affixed to the shore on the south edge of Gansevoort Peninsula, the structure will extend over the water, employing the thinnest possible support system. It will appear evanescent and ethereal, seeming to shimmer and almost disappear, changing with the light of day and atmospheric conditions. Hammons’s Day’s End also alludes to the history of New York’s waterfront—from the heyday of its shipping industry to the reclaimed piers that became a gathering place for the gay community. Open to everyone, the artwork will allow easy access to the river’s edge.
MORE EXHIBITIONS IN 2020
fruits, vegetables; fruit and vegetable salad. January 15–February 16, 2020
For this exhibition, an untitled work by Darren Bader (b. 1978) stands alone in the gallery. Fresh fruits and vegetables—“nature’s impeccable sculpture,” according to Bader—are presented as formal objects on pedestals. Before over-ripening, the produce is removed from the pedestals by museum staff. It is then chopped, sliced, shaved, and diced into a salad, which is served to visitors. The artwork is then refreshed with a new selection of fruits and vegetables. This exhibition is organized by Christie Mitchell, senior curatorial assistant.
Salad-making and eating will happen at the following times:
- Mondays 3 pm–6 pm, Wednesdays 3 pm–6 pm, Fridays 7:30 pm–10 pm, Sundays 3 pm–6 pm.
Cauleen Smith: Mutualities, February 17–May 17, 2020
Jill Mulleady, On View March 2020
Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist. March 13–June 21, 2020
Agnes Pelton (1881–1961) was a visionary symbolist who depicted the spiritual reality she experienced in moments of meditative stillness. Art for her was a discipline through which she gave form to her vision of a higher consciousness within the universe. Using an abstract vocabulary of curvilinear, biomorphic forms and delicate, shimmering veils of light, she portrayed her awareness of a world that lay behind physical appearances—a world of benevolent, disembodied energies animating and protecting life. For most of her career, Pelton chose to live away from the distractions of a major art center, first in Water Mill, Long Island, from 1921 to 1932, and subsequently in Cathedral City, a small community near Palm Springs, California. Her isolation from the mainstream art world meant that her paintings were relatively unknown during her lifetime and in the decades thereafter. This exhibition of approximately forty-five works introduces to the public a little-known artist whose luminous, abstract images of transcendence are only now being fully recognized.
Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, and curated by Gilbert Vicario, The Selig Family Chief Curator. The installation at the Whitney Museum is overseen by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant. Generous support of Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is provided by Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Significant support is provided by the Opatrny Family Foundation.
Salman Toor: How Will I Know,March 20–July 5, 2020
Dave McKenzie: The Story I Tell Myself, April–May 2020
Prints From Everyday Objects, June–September 2020
Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop
Working Together is an unprecedented exhibition that chronicles the formative years of the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers established in New York City in 1963. “Kamoinge” comes from the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, meaning “a group of people acting together,” and reflects the ideal that animated the collective. In the early years, at a time of dramatic social upheaval, members met regularly to show and discuss each other’s work and to share their critical perspectives, technical and professional experience, and friendship. Although each artist had his or her own sensibility and developed an independent career, the members of Kamoinge were deeply committed to photography’s power and status as an independent art form. They boldly and inventively depicted their communities as they saw and participated in them, rather than as they were often portrayed.
This presentation focuses on the influential work of founding Kamoinge members during the first two decades of the collective. It includes approximately 140 photographs by fifteen of the early members: Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Daniel Dawson, Roy DeCarava, Louis Draper, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, Jimmie Mannas, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker, and Calvin Wilson. Nine of these artists still live in or near New York City. The photographs provide a powerful and poetic perspective of the 1960s and 1970s during the heart of the Black Arts Movement. Working Together also presents an overview of many of the group’s collective achievements, such as exhibitions, portfolios, and publications.
Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop is organized by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The installation at the Whitney is overseen by Carrie Springer, assistant curator, Whitney Museum of American Art.
Around Day’s End: Downtown New York, 1970–1986. July–October 2020
On the occasion of David Hammons’s Day’s End, a major public artwork located in Hudson River Park to be completed in fall 2020, the Whitney will present a selection of works from the Museum’s collection that explore downtown New York as site, history, and memory. Central to this presentation is Gordon Matta-Clark’s Day’s End, the innovative project that inspired Hammons’s sculpture. In 1975, Matta-Clark cut several massive openings into the dilapidated building that existed on Pier 52 where Gansevoort Street meets the Hudson River. He described it as a “temple to sun and water.”
Matta-Clark’s attempt to extract beauty and create poetic experiences in unlikely places exemplifies the aims of many artists working at the same time. The exhibition will include works by approximately fifteen artists who were active in overlapping downtown New York scenes in the 1970s and early 1980s. Their works intervene in the urban fabric of the city in various ways: Matta-Clark and Joan Jonas present the city itself as a character, pointing to New York as a place that embodies both presence and invisibility. For other artists, like Alvin Baltrop and Jimmy Wright, the periphery of the city became synonymous for historically marginalized populations; their depictions of the West Side piers and Meatpacking district reveal how queer life found community and intimacy in forgotten, and reclaimed, corners. And Martin Wong and others made visceral works that engage with the ways particular downtown neighborhoods, like the Bowery and Lower East Side, were impacted by deteriorating economic conditions. For these artists, as in David Hammons’s new Day’s End, the city is seen as material, inspiration, specter, and provocation. This exhibition is organized by Laura Phipps, assistant curator, with Christie Mitchell, senior curatorial assistant.
My Barbarian, Opens September 2020
Dawoud Bey: An American Project, Opens November 2020
The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West Streets, New York City. Museum hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:30 am to 6 pm; Friday from 10:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Tuesday except in July and August. Adults: $25. Full-time students, visitors 65 & over, and visitors with disabilities: $18. Visitors 18 years & under and Whitney members: FREE. Admission is pay-what-you-wish on Fridays, 7–10 pm. For general information, please call (212) 570-3600 or visit www.whitney.org