Frist Art Museum Presents “Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture”

The Frist Art Museum presents Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture, an exhibition that examines the complex and dynamic interactions among spectators, images, buildings, and time through the lens of architectural photography in America and Europe from the 1930s to the present. On view in the museum’s Upper-Level Galleries from July 20 through October 28, 2018, Image Building features 57 photographs that explore the social, psychological, and conceptual implications of architecture through the subjective interpretation of those who portrayed it in both film and digital media.

Organized by guest curator Therese Lichtenstein, PhD and the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, Image Building brings together works by 21 artists and commercial photographers, ranging from classic modern masters such as Berenice Abbott, Samuel H. Gottscho, and Julius Shulman to a later generation known for its more vernacular images, with Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Luigi Ghirri, and Stephen Shore among its members. The exhibition also features contemporary works by Iwan Baan, Hélène Binet, James Casebere, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others.Frist-Art-Museum

Buildings and the way they are photographed are visible projections of a society’s self-image, conveying the social, economic, and aesthetic concerns of an era,” says Frist Art Museum Chief Curator Mark Scala. “Articulating meaning and function through the representation of an existing or possible structure is a vital part of architectural practice—a way to show both clients and the public how buildings fulfill their function and interact with their environments.

Organized thematically into Cityscapes, Domestic Spaces, and Public Places, the exhibition examines the relationship between contemporary and historical approaches to photographing buildings in urban, suburban, and rural environments, looking at influences, similarities, and differences. By juxtaposing these photographs, Image Building creates a dialogue between the past and present, revealing the ways photography shapes and frames the perception of architecture, and how that perception is transformed over time.

In the first section, Cityscapes, the essence of New York City is explored by Berenice Abbott and Iwan Baan in two photographs separated by nearly 80 years. Shot from the vantage point of the Empire State Building, Abbott’s The Night View (1934) is a modernist depiction of a thriving metropolis packed with skyscrapers and shimmering lights. Made during the Great Depression, the photograph shows no hint of the poverty or struggles that many were experiencing at ground level. Contrasting with this message of power and confidence, Iwan Baan’s The City and the Storm (2012) portrays a vulnerable New York after electrical outages and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy left vast swaths of darkness from lower Manhattan to Midtown.

From the mid-century until now, domestic spaces have presented an irresistible subject to many photographers, who create voyeuristic windows into everyday life, showing elegant modern homes as the beautiful dream of consumerist society, or rundown towns and apartment buildings as loci for alienation and melancholia. The second section, Domestic Spaces, includes photographs of buildings meant for the practical use of individuals and families. People are rarely included in the shots, however. In Julius Schulman’s photographs of show-homes of the post–World War II era, for example, this lack of human presence suggests modern architecture is very much like formalist sculpture—“meant to be looked at in terms of angles, light, planes, but not to be touched, entered, or used,” says Scala. For Shore and others, this human absence tells of a postwar alienation experienced by many in the lower and middle classes who did not benefit from the economic recovery of the 1950s and beyond.

The artists featured in the final section, Public Places, create digital photographs to interpret buildings and sites meant for public use. Monumental works by Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Struth show that public places can signify communal aspirations and cultural identity. This extends to architecture that does not actually exist, as seen in the works of James Casebere and Thomas Demand, who photograph models of building types to focus more fully on their symbolic meaning, which is as often unsettling as it is positive.

As with any exhibition that reflects changes wrought through time, Image Building has particular relevance to contemporary culture. Scala hopes that the exhibition will inspire visitors to the Frist Art Museum to consider Nashville’s own evolving cityscape in terms of its symbolic resonance, for us and future generations.

Photographers Represented in the Exhibition: Berenice Abbott (American, 1898–1991), Robert Adams (American, born 1937), Iwan Baan (Dutch, born 1975), Lewis Baltz (American, 1945–2014), Bernd Becher (German 1931–2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015), Hélène Binet (Swiss-French, born 1959), James Casebere (American, born 1953), Thomas Demand (German, born 1964), Luigi Ghirri (Italian, 1943–1992), Samuel H. Gottscho (American, 1875–1971), Andreas Gursky (German, born 1955), Candida Höfer (German, born 1944), Balthazar Korab (Hungarian, 1926–2013), Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958), Ed Ruscha (American, born 1937), Stephen Shore (American, born 1947), Julius Shulman (American, 1910–2009), Ezra Stoller (American, 1915–2004), Thomas Struth (German, born 1954), and Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948).

Dr. Therese Lichtenstein organized Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris for the Frist and is the author of Twilight Visions: Surrealism and Paris (2009). She is the curator and author of Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer (awarded Best Photography Exhibition of 2001 by the International Association of Art Critics) and Andromeda Hotel: The Art of Joseph Cornell (2006). Dr. Lichtenstein, who received her Ph.D. in art history from The Graduate Center, CUNY, has written articles and reviews for Art in America, Artforum, and Arts Magazine. She taught at Rice University, Mt. Holyoke College, New York University, and the International Center of Photography; and currently teaches art history at the Ross School in East Hampton, New York. Continue reading

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“Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now” at The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Over seven decades of style will be displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now, a major exhibition (in the Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor, October 16, 2018March 3, 2019) highlighting creativity and glamour. The haute couture and ready-to-wear garments and accessories on view range in date from 1947 – the year of the introduction of Christian Dior’s revolutionary “New Look” – to recent ensembles by audacious designer Bernhard Willhelm. Featuring some of the most significant and visually compelling works from the Museum’s renowned collection of costumes and textiles, Fabulous Fashion presents many new acquisitions and other outstanding works, exhibited rarely if ever before.

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Woman’s Evening Dress and Flower Pin, Fall 2006, designed by Oscar de la Renta. Worn by Mrs. Martin Field. Light brown nylon tulle and silk gauze, burgundy synthetic velvet. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Martin Field. Light brown tulle and gauze strapless dress with train, burgundy velvet artificial flower brooch.

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Few museums have such extraordinary range and depth in their collection of costumes and textiles as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As we continue to work on our Facilities Master Plan, which will result in much more gallery space to display the richness of our holdings in this field, Fabulous Fashion will serve as a reminder of the strength of our collection and all that we have to offer to those who value the extraordinary history of costumes and textiles as much as we do.

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Woman’s Suit (Jacket, Skirt, Belt, and Camisole) and Bag, Fall/Winter 1998, designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Martin Field.

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Woman’s Dress: Bodice and Skirt, Spring 1948, designed by Christian Dior. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Dora Donner Ide in memory of John Jay Ide.

Since its founding, as a result of Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Costume and Textile Collection has become one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Numbering some 30,000 objects, the collection is remarkable in depth and breadth, encompassing art of great quality from diverse eras and around the globe. Textiles holdings range from Middle Eastern and Asian archeological examples to American quilts and samplers to fiber art, while the extensive collection of garments and accessories includes particular strengths in late-nineteenth-century French couture and the iconic designs of famed twentieth-century designer Elsa Schiaparelli, as well as a growing collection of contemporary menswear.

The 1956 wedding dress worn by Princess Grace of Monaco, the former Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, is another highlight (currently not on view). Since costume and textile objects can only be displayed for short periods of time due to light sensitivity and other conservation concerns, the Museum showcases diverse aspects of its encyclopedic collection through special exhibitions and rotating displays.

Fabulous Fashion includes such iconic works as Adrian’s 1947 velvet “winged victory” gown, an understated black and white 1972 Chanel suit, and Geoffrey Beene’s 1994 silver lamé “Mercury” dress. Radical design is exemplified by Paco Rabanne’s dress made of plastic discs linked by metal rings (from his 1966 collection entitled “Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials”) and a punk-inspired ensemble by Zandra Rhodes from her 1977-78 “Conceptual Chic” collection.

Focusing on fashion as an art form, the exhibition is arranged thematically to explore designers’ creative use of color and pattern, shape and volume, draping, metallics, bridal traditions and innovations, and exquisite embellishments. Works will be grouped together to offer striking visual comparisons and demonstrate the relentlessly creative spirit of fashion.

A pair of ensembles from fifty years apart opens the exhibition, each embodying fashion-forward dressing for its time. Dior’s two-piece pale pink satin day dress from1948, with a nipped-in waist and full skirt that epitomizes the ultra-feminine “New Look,” contrasts with a flirtatious hot pink fur-collared wool suit designed in 1998 by John Galliano for the House of Dior. Continue reading

“The Face In The Moon: Drawings And Prints By Louise Nevelson” Explores The Late Artist’s Works On Paper

The Face in the Moon: Drawings and Prints by Louise Nevelson opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art on July 20, 2018. Drawn entirely from The Whitney’s extensive holdings of her work, this exhibition presents a career-spanning selection of works on paper by Louise Nevelson (1899–1988).

The Face in the Moon: Drawings and Prints by Louise Nevelson will be on view in the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery on the Museum’s third floor and is organized by Clémence White, curatorial assistant.

Drawings and Prints by Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), The Face in the Moon, 1953-55. Etching: sheet, 20 × 26 1/16 in. (50.8 × 66.2 cm); plate, 17 7/8 × 21 5/8 in. (45.4 × 54.9 cm). Edition 1/20. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the artist 69.247. © 2018 Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Nevelson emphasized her reliance on the processes of drawing and collage to create the monochromatic wooden sculptures for which she is best known. This exhibition will be an opportunity to focus closely on her use of these processes in her works on paper, many of which, like her sculptures, involved building compositions out of unconventional or recycled materials.

The human figure is at the center of Nevelson’s early line drawings, often depicted from multiple perspectives. Over time, her figures became increasingly schematic as she deepened her interest in modern dance and the constraints of the body.

The prints on view in this exhibition include works from her two most significant bodies of print works, those made in the mid-1950s at Atelier 17 in New York City and those made in the mid-1960s at Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. In her prints, she layered scraps of fabric to create deeply textured compositions inhabited by mystical figures and architectural forms. Similarly, her collages reconfigure the disparate materials from which they are composed, including scraps of paper and foil, into unexpected compositions.

Clémence White, curatorial assistant, remarked, “Nevelson’s works on paper help to elucidate the processes of this artist whose transformation of her materials challenges us to notice the expressive potential of common or overlooked things, and through this, to see our environments differently.”

“Watching Oprah” Looks at How America Shaped Oprah and How She Shaped America

Exhibition Opens at National Museum of African American History and Culture June 8

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture,” opens June 8 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and continues through June 2019. The exhibition will use the story of Winfrey and her 25-year daytime talk show as a lens to explore contemporary American history and culture, especially issues of power, gender, and the media. It will feature video clips on a range of subjects, interactive interviews with Winfrey, costumes from her films Beloved and The Color Purple and artifacts from Harpo Studios in Chicago, home of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture logo

The exhibition is in three sections: America Shapes Oprah, 1950s–1980s, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Oprah Shapes America. Museum curators Rhea L. Combs and Kathleen Kendrick put Winfrey’s story into context for visitors: “During her 25 years on broadcast television, her remarkable ability to connect in a familiar way with diverse audiences was crucial to her success. Many of the values she espoused on her show—including empowerment, education, spirituality, and philanthropy—were rooted in her African American identity and upbringing.

In the first section, America Shapes Oprah, key events in Winfrey’s life are considered in relationship to the broader political, social and cultural changes happening in the country. Artifacts include items from Winfrey’s childhood when she was deeply affected by the working women in her life, as well as artists, authors, and activists whose works gave voice to the experiences of African American women. Among the highlights: the high school diploma earned by Carlotta Walls, one of the “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High School in Arkansas in 1957; a pennant carried by Edith Lee Payne, a 12-year-old girl from Detroit, at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; images of women activists, including Pauli Murray, an attorney and Episcopal priest who helped organize the March on Washington, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; and works by artist Elizabeth Catlett.

The exhibition also examines the evolution of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which dominated daytime TV from 1986 through 2011. Watched by millions in 145 countries, the show won 48 Daytime Emmy Awards and featured a wide range of celebrities and challenging, rarely discussed topics such as beauty, relationships, sexual abuse and current affairs. Winfrey herself received a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Continue reading

Frist Art Museum Presents First Solo Museum Exhibition of Iranian American Artist Afruz Amighi

The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere—June 22–September 16, 2018

The Frist Art Museum presents critically acclaimed Iranian American artist Afruz Amighi’s first monographic museum exhibition, The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere, on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from June 22 through September 16, 2018. Celebrated for her lyrical transformation of inexpensive materials into ethereal installations and sculptures, Amighi uses light and dark to wondrous effect.

Over the past two years, Amighi has changed the emphasis of her work significantly,” says Frist Art Museum Curator Trinita Kennedy. “She now recognizes an urgent need to address the current political moment in the United States, the place where she lives and her home since she was a small child. To express this desire to be more present in the here and now, she has begun making work that is figural.Frist-Art-Museum

Organized by the Frist Art Museum, the exhibition features Amighi’s work from 2014 to today, a period of intense and prolific output in which the artist has relentlessly pushed herself in new directions. One sculpture and two drawings are being made especially for the exhibition, while two existing installations have never been shown in the United States.

Born in Tehran in 1974, the child of a Jewish American mother and a Zoroastrian Iranian father, Amighi has lived in New York since the age of three. She studied political science at Barnard College before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree at New York University in 2007. In 2009, she received the Jameel Prize, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s prestigious international award for contemporary art and design inspired by the Islamic tradition. Her work is in the permanent collection of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum, and has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in many group shows, such as Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians—The Mohammed Afkhami Collection at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, in 2017.

Now living and working in Brooklyn, Amighi typically uses industrial materials found in her own urban environment. In her architectural sculptures, Amighi dramatically illuminates steel, fiberglass mesh, and chains to create intrigue, explore dualities, and mimic the effect of more decadent luxury objects. By borrowing elegant, radiant forms from sacred architecture, she induces feelings of wonder often missing from our predominantly secular world. The exhibition includes Nameless (2014), an installation inspired by medieval Spanish mosques repurposed as churches during the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, and My House, My Tomb (2015), a diptych which explores myths about India’s majestic Taj Mahal.

While growing up in New York, Amighi watched from afar as the Islamic Revolution (1978–79) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) transformed her birthplace. For much of her artistic career, she has focused on her absence from Iran at a critical time in its history. Since 2016, however, American historical and contemporary sources have played a far more meaningful role in her thinking.

For her 2017 series No More Disguise, Amighi designed headdresses for a procession of characters, with each one rendered in both a steel sculpture and a graphite drawing plotted on graph paper with precision. Four of the drawings, including Fool’s Headdress, are presented in this exhibition.

The three new works on view include the ambitious sculpture We Wear Chains, which examines the current state of feminism. Four lithe women bear the features of both angels and demons, humans and animals. Bound together with chains—a form of adornment as well as bondage—the women struggle to find a way to advance together.

Inspired by a passage in a letter written by the American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amighi selected the exhibition title The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere because it eloquently captures the shift in her purview since 2016. Continue reading

The Whitney To Present Eckhaus Latta: Possessed

This summer, The Whitney Museum of American Art will present the first museum solo exhibition of Eckhaus Latta, the New York-and Los Angeles-based fashion label, founded in 2011 by Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta. Eckhaus Latta: Possessed highlights the work of this compelling young design team who belong to a new generation of designers operating at the intersection of fashion and contemporary art.

Untitled (Preparatory drawing for Possessed), 2018. Colored pencil on paper. Image courtesy the artists

Untitled (Preparatory drawing for Possessed), 2018. Colored pencil on paper. Image courtesy the artists

Eckhaus Latta’s fashion designs—for which they are currently finalists for the 2018 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers—explore, in part, identity and reflect the fluid nature of gender and sexuality. While they fully participate in the fashion system, Latta and Eckhaus remain self-aware of their roles in a consumer society. Their recognizable designs have featured experimental knitwear; a wide range of materials including lace, rust, and recycled fabrics; and a general approach that supersedes gender binaries. At times, models are sent down the runway wearing clothes that challenge traditional definitions of male and female. Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic at the New York Times, wrote that their clothes “are a kind of petri dish of associative splicing,” and that they “grapple honestly with what is on the designers’ minds: questions of gender and difference and the details of fallible beauty…

This will be the first exhibition related to fashion at the Museum in twenty-one years, since The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion (1997).

Eckhaus Latta: Possessed is organized by Christopher Y. Lew, Nancy and Fred Poses Associate Curator, and Lauri London Freedman, head of product development.

The exhibition, part of the Museum’s emerging artist series, will be on view in the first-floor John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gallery from August 3 through October 8, 2018. Access to the gallery is free of charge.

Mike Eckhaus (b. 1987, New York, NY) and Zoe Latta (b. 1987, Santa Cruz, CA) met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design while studying sculpture and textiles, respectively. They are known for using unexpected materials, emphasizing texture and tactility in their designs, and for incorporating writing, performance, and video into their practice. Through their emphasis on collaboration—with artists, musicians, and others—and an approach that plays with, and against, industry conventions, Eckhaus Latta addresses the crosscurrents of desire, consumption, and social relations. Their work has been featured in Greater New York 2015 at MoMA PS1 and Made in L.A. (2016) at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

As part of the Whitney’s emerging artist program, we sometimes showcase creative figures outside of the visual arts,” said Lew. “These figures from fields such as fashion, music, architecture, design, and food approach their disciplines in ways that are akin to visual artists, often questioning the systems and parameters that define what they do, speaking to the broader cultural moment, and blurring the boundaries between disciplines.”

Working with Mike and Zoe has challenged us to consider the roles that our Museum spaces play and the objects that are presented. They pushed us to ask broader questions such as ‘How can we reexamine the format of an exhibition?’ and ‘What is the best way to exhibit an artist’s work?’ said Freedman.

For their Whitney exhibition, Eckhaus Latta will create a new three-part installation that embraces and brings into conversation various aspects of the fashion industry, from advertising and the consumer experience to voyeurism. At the entrance to the gallery will be a sequence of photographs that play on the tropes of iconic photoshoots found in fashion advertisements and magazines. These photographs explore how Eckhaus Latta’s unique aesthetic functions in relation to the highly polished look of the industry’s media. The core of their installation will be an operational retail environment in which visitors are welcome to touch, try on, and purchase clothing and accessories designed specifically for the show. This space is made in collaboration with more than a dozen artists whom Eckhaus Latta has been in dialogue with over the years who have created functional elements such as clothing racks, display shelves, and a dressing room. The exhibition concludes with a darkened room, evocative of a security office, which features a bank of screens depicting surveillance footage. Visitors will have a voyeuristic view of not only the rest of the installation but a glimpse of the tracking and surveillance that so often accompanies the experience of shopping.

The featured collaborators are Susan Cianciolo (b. 1969, Providence, RI; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY), Lauren Davis Fisher (b. 1984, Cambridge, MA; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA), Avena Venus Gallagher (b. 1973, Seattle, WA; lives and works in New York, NY), Jeffrey Joyal (b. 1988, Boston, MA; lives and works in New York, NY), Alexa Karolinski (b. 1984, Berlin, Germany; lives and works in Los Angeles), Valerie Keane (b. 1989, Passaic, NJ; lives and works in New York, NY), Jay Latta (b. 1951, Santa Cruz, CA; lives in works in Santa Cruz, CA), Matthew Lutz-Kinoy (b. 1984, New York, NY; lives and works between Los Angeles, CA and Paris, France), Annabeth Marks (b.1986, Rochester, NY; lives and works in New York, NY), Riley O’Neill (b. 1992, Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA), Emma T. Price (b. 1987, Santa Cruz, CA; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA), Jessi Reaves (b. 1986, Portland, OR; lives and works in New York, NY), Erica Sarlo (b. 1988, Briarcliff Manor, NY; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY), Nora Jane Slade (b. 1986, Washington, D.C.; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA), Sophie Stone (b. 1987, Boston, MA; lives and works in New York, NY), Martine Syms (b. 1988, Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA), Torey Thornton (b. 1990, Macon, GA; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY), Charlotte Wales (b. 1986, Farnborough, UK; lives and works in London, UK), Eric Wrenn (b. 1985, Southfield, MI; lives and works in New York, NY), and Amy Yao (b. 1977, Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in Long Beach, CA and New York, NY).

Major support for Eckhaus Latta: Possessed is provided by the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation. Additional support is provided by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner.

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, and Sunday from 10:30 am to 6 pm; Friday and Saturday from 10:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Tuesday. Adults: $25. Full-time students and visitors 65 & over: $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 whitney.org.

David Wojnarowicz Retrospective At The Whitney Explores The Enduring Resonance Of An Artist Who Merged The Personal And The Political

This summer, the most complete presentation to date of the work of artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz will be on view in a full-scale retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night is the first major re-evaluation since 1999 of one of the most fervent and essential voices of his generation.

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David Wojnarowicz with Tom Warren, Self-Portrait of David Wojnarowicz, 1983–84. Acrylic and collaged paper on gelatin silver print, 60 × 40 in. (152.4 × 101.6 cm). Collection of Brooke Garber Neidich and Daniel Neidich, Photograph by Ron Amstutz. (The exhibition is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, and David Kiehl, Curator Emeritus, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.)

Opening at the Whitney on July 13 and running through September 30, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night features more than a hundred works by the artist and is organized by two Whitney curators, David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, and David Kiehl, Curator Emeritus. The exhibition, which will be installed in the Museum’s fifth floor Neil Bluhm Family Galleries through September 30, draws upon the scholarly resources of the Fales Library and Special Collections (NYU), the repository of Wojnarowicz’s archive, and is also built on the foundation of the Whitney’s extensive holdings of Wojnarowicz’s work, including thirty works from the Museum’s collection. It will travel to the Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, in May 2019, and to Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg City, in November 2019.

Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, remarked, “Since his death more than twenty-five years ago, David Wojnarowicz has become an almost mythic figure, haunting, inspiring, and calling to arms subsequent generations through his inseparable artistic and political examples. This retrospective will enable so many to confront for the first time, or anew, the groundbreaking multidisciplinary body of work on which his legacy actually stands.”

Beginning in the late 1970s, David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, performance, and activism. Joining a lineage of iconoclasts, Wojnarowicz (pronounced Voyna-ROW-vich) saw the outsider as his true subject. His mature period began with a series of photographs and collages that honored—and placed himself among—consummate countercultural figures like Arthur Rimbaud, William Burroughs, and Jean Genet. Even as he became well-known in the East Village art scene for his mythological paintings, Wojnarowicz remained committed to writing personal essays. Queer and HIV-positive, Wojnarowicz became an impassioned advocate for people with AIDS at a time when an inconceivable number of friends, lovers, and strangers—disproportionately gay men—were dying from the disease and from government inaction.

After hitchhiking across the U.S. and living for several months in San Francisco, and then in Paris, David Wojnarowicz settled in New York in 1978 and soon after began to exhibit his work in East Village galleries. Largely self-taught, Wojnarowicz came to prominence in New York in the 1980s, a period marked by great creative energy and profound cultural changes. Intersecting movements—graffiti, new and no wave music, conceptual photography, performance, neo-expressionist painting—made New York a laboratory for innovation. Unlike many artists, Wojnarowicz refused a signature style, adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility. Distrustful of inherited structures, a feeling amplified by the resurgence of conservative politics, Wojnarowicz varied his repertoire to better infiltrate the culture.

His essay for the catalog accompanying the exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing (curated by Nan Goldin at Artists Space in 1989–90) came under fire for its vitriolic attack on politicians and leaders who were preventing AIDS treatment and awareness. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) threatened to defund the exhibition, and Wojnarowicz fought against this and for the first amendment rights of artists. Continue reading