Celebrating the remarkable collection of drawings recently donated to the Walker Arts Center by longtime patrons Miriam and Erwin Kelen, The Expressionist Figure: The Miriam And Erwin Kelen Collection Of Drawings, explores the expressive potential of the human body. Richly varied in theme and style, the works on paper span more than a century of artistic experimentation. Featuring portraiture, social satire, erotica, and fantasy in mediums ranging from crayon, ink, and graphite to watercolor, pastel, and collage, the Kelens’ works are joined by a select group of related drawings and sculpture from the Walker’s current holdings. As a whole, The Expressionist Figure: The Miriam And Erwin Kelen Collection Of Drawings is not only a display of virtuoso artworks but also a testament to the pleasure of building a collection and the rewards of sharing it.
the artists in the exhibition are Max Beckmann, Louise Bourgeois,
Chuck Close, Willem de Kooning, Edgar Degas, Jim Denomie, Otto Dix,
Marlene Dumas, Arshile Gorky, George Grosz, David Hockney, Jasper
Johns, William Kentridge, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Gustav
Klimt, René Magritte, Henri Matisse, Kerry James Marshall, Joan
Miró, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Rowan Pope, Egon Schiele, Kara
Walker and Andy Warhol.
The Expressionist Figure: The Miriam and Erwin Kelen Collection of Drawings, Curated by Joan Rothfuss, guest curator, Visual Arts, is on view November 17, 2019 through April 19, 2020.
On November 22, the Whitney Museum of American Art opens Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, an exhibition that foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft. Beginning in the 1950s—at a time when many artists embraced fiber arts and ceramics to challenge the dominance of traditional painting and sculpture—Making Knowing moves through the next seven decades, presenting works that speak to artists’ interests in domesticity, hobbyist materials, the decorative, vernacular American traditions, “women’s work,” and feminist and queer aesthetics.
primarily from the Whitney’s collection, the exhibition features
over eighty artworks in a variety of media, including textiles,
ceramics, painting, drawing, photography, video, and large-scale
sculptural installation. The more than sixty artists represented
include Anni Albers, Richard Artschwager, Ruth Asawa, Njideka
Akunyili Crosby, Robert Gober, Shan Goshorn, Harmony Hammond, Eva
Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Mike Kelley, Yayoi Kusama, Thomas
Lanigan-Schmidt, Simone Leigh, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Pepón
Osorio, Howardena Pindell, Ken Price, Robert Rauschenberg, Faith
Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Arlene Shechet, Kiki Smith, Lenore Tawney,
Peter Voulkos, Marie Watt, and Betty Woodman.
of the greatest pleasures and responsibilities that comes with
digging into the Whitney’s collection is the way it continually
compels us to reevaluate our received ideas about taste, style, and
even what counts as art at any moment,” remarks Scott Rothkopf,
Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief
Curator. “By focusing on materials and techniques associated
with craft, Making Knowing will offer jolts of surprise, emotion,
provocation, and discovery through an incredible range of works, more
than half of which have never been on display in our galleries.”
Knowing is organized chronologically and thematically, beginning
with a gallery of works from the 1950s. Throughout this decade,
artists such as Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, and Peter
Voulkos experimented with wire, scavenged fabric, and clay.
Others, including Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, and Ann
Wilson, explored weaving, both on and off the loom, and painting
on found quilts. By employing marginalized craft media, they
challenged the power structures that determined artistic value.
Presenting these artists together reveals the profound influence that
craft had on abstraction during this period.
galleries demonstrate how artists working in the 1960s and 1970s
frequently questioned why fine art was more accepted and valued than
more vernacular or utilitarian traditions. Among them, Richard
Artschwager, Eva Hesse, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Morris, Howardena
Pindell, and Alan Shields experimented with unconventional
materials such as rope, felt, and string, and in doing so influenced
various art historical movements, including Pop Art, Minimalism, and
Process art. In Shields’s J + K, 1972, the canvas border
creates a satirically legitimizing frame for craft materials like
strands of beads.
Knowing also highlights modes of making from the 1970s and 1980s
frequently categorized as “women’s work.” While this
phrase denigrated certain materials and aesthetics associated with
femininity, artists purposefully worked in these ways in order to
question gender roles in both the art world and society at large.
Artists such as Barbara Chase-Riboud, Harmony Hammond, Kim
MacConnel, Elaine Reichek, Miriam Schapiro, and Betty Woodman
used cloth, embroidery, sewing, and ceramics to elevate the
often-disparaged tradition of the “decorative,” and to attest to
the impossibility of tethering these techniques to a single use or
means of expression.
works on display from the 1980s and 1990s exemplify how artists
during this period looked at art and its relationship to devotional
practices and often grappled with an ambivalence towards organized
religion. Arch Connelly, Robert Gober, Mike Kelley, Lucas Samaras,
Kiki Smith, and Rosie Lee Tompkins used wide-ranging
materials including quilts, found and sewn textiles, candles,
artificial flowers, and beads in artworks that reveal the
relationship between the spiritual and the worldly. Working at the
height of the AIDS crisis, several of these artists’ attention to
handcrafting objects attempted to provide an emotionally reparative
experience in the absence of aid from the government or religious
gallery dedicated to artwork from the mid-1990s to the present
broadly addresses issues of the body and place. Liza Lou’s
monumental installation Kitchen, 1991–1996, is a handmade,
life-size kitchen composed of sparkling beads. Through subject matter
and materials, Lou combines the physical labor of domestic life and
the painstaking making of an artwork. On view for the first time here
are recent acquisitions by Shan Goshorn, Kahlil Robert Irving,
Simone Leigh, Jordan Nassar, and Erin Jane Nelson.
of the artists in Making Knowing have taken up historically
marginalized materials in order to upend hierarchies that have
persisted in art history and in museum collecting practices,”
explains co-curator Jennie Goldstein. Elisabeth Sherman, co-curator,
continues, “Together they demonstrate that craft-informed
techniques of making carry their own kind of knowledge, one that is
indispensable to a more complete understanding of the history and
potential of art.”
Knowing offers a fresh look at a prominent, ever-present thread
of the Whitney’s collection. The exhibition’s title reformulates
the historical tension often separating craft and fine art by
leveling the distinction between the world of the handmade, “making,”
and the world of ideas, “knowing.”
Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 will be on view beginning
November 22, 2019, in the Museum’s sixth-floor collection
galleries. The Whitney’s sixth-floor galleries continue to serve as
a space to present challenging, thematic exhibitions that explore and
rethink various threads of the Museum’s collection. Past
sixth-floor collection exhibitions include An Incomplete History
of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017
(2017–2018) and Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in
Art, 1965–2018 (2018–2019).
Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 is curated by Jennie
Goldstein, assistant curator, and Elisabeth Sherman, assistant
curator, with Ambika Trasi, curatorial assistant.
for Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 is provided by
the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.
The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that its 2021 Biennial, the 80th edition, will be co-organized by two brilliant members of the Museum’s curatorial department, David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. The 2021 Whitney Biennial exhibition will open in the spring of 2021 and is presented by Tiffany & Co., which has been the lead sponsor of the Biennial since the Museum’s move downtown.
Pratt Brown Director Adam D. Weinberg noted: “The central
aim of the Biennial is to be a barometer of contemporary American
art. Each Biennial is a reflection of the cultural and social moment
as it intersects with the passions, perspectives, and tastes of the
curators. David and Adrienne will be a great team. They are
inquisitive, curious, and are acutely attuned to the art of the
current moment. No doubt they will bring fresh outlooks to this
historic exhibition and reinvent it for these complex and challenging
a long history of exhibiting the most promising and influential
artists and provoking debate, the Whitney Biennial is the Museum’s
signature survey of the state of contemporary art in the United
States. The Biennial, an invitational show of work produced in the
preceding two years, was introduced by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in
1932, and it is the longest continuous series of exhibitions in the
country to survey recent developments in American art.
Initiated by founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932, the Whitney Biennial is the longest-running survey of American art. More than 3,600 artists have participated, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Lynda Benglis, Frank Bowling, Joan Jonas, Barbara Kruger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, David Wojnarowicz, Glenn Ligon, Yvonne Rainer, Zoe Leonard, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley, Lorna Simpson, Renée Green, Wade Guyton, Julie Mehretu, Cecilia Vicuña, Mark Bradford, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Ellen Gallagher, Rachel Harrison, Wu Tsang, Nick Mauss, Sarah Michelson, Laura Owens, Postcommodity, Pope.L, Jeffrey Gibson, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden.
The biennials were originally organized by medium, with painting alternating with sculpture and works on paper. Starting in 1937, the Museum shifted to yearly exhibitions called Annuals. The current format—a survey show of work in all media occurring every two years—has been in place since 1973. The 2019 Biennial (still on partial view on the Museum’s sixth floor until October 27) was organized by two Whitney curators, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley. It featured seventy-five artists and collectives working in painting, sculpture, installation, film and video, photography, performance, and sound.
Breslin was recently named the DeMartini Family Curator and
Director of Curatorial Initiatives, a role he will assume this
month. Since joining the Museum in 2016 as DeMartini Family Curator
and Director of the Collection, Breslin has spearheaded the Museum’s
collection-related activities, curating a series of major collection
exhibitions and overseeing acquisitions. Working closely with his
curatorial colleagues, he has organized or co-organized four timely
and thematized collection displays, including Where We Are:
Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960, An
Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s
Collection, 1940–2017, Spilling Over: Painting Color
in the 1960s, and The Whitney’s Collection:
Selections from 1900 to 1965, which is currently on view on
the Museum’s seventh floor. In 2018, he co-curated (with David
Kiehl) the landmark retrospective David Wojnarowicz:
History Keeps Me Awake at Night.
came to the Whitney from the Menil Drawing Institute, where he
created an ambitious program of exhibitions and public and scholarly
events and helped to shape the design of the Institute’s new
facility. He also oversaw work on the catalogue raisonné of the
drawings of Jasper Johns and grew the collection. Prior to the
Menil, Breslin served as the associate director of the research and
academic program and associate curator of contemporary projects at
the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; he also oversaw
the Clark’s residential fellowship program and taught in the
Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
Breslin co-edited Art History and Emergency: Crises in the Visual
Arts and Humanities (Yale University Press, 2016), a volume that
grew from a Clark Conference he organized with art historian Darby
2018, Adrienne Edwards was named Engell Speyer Family
Curator and Curator of Performance at the Whitney. Previously,
she served as curator of Performa since 2010 and as Curator at
Large for the Walker Art Center since 2016.
the Whitney, Edwards curated Jason Moran, the artist’s first
museum show, now on view on the Museum’s eighth floor. She
originated the exhibition at the Walker in 2018; it previously
traveled to the ICA Boston and the Wexner Center for the
Arts. The exhibition features a series of performances, Jazz on a
High Floor in the Afternoon, curated by Edwards and Moran. She
organized the event commencing the construction of David
Hammons’s Day’s End, featuring a commission by composer
Henry Threadgill and a “water” tango on the Hudson
River by the Fire Department of the City of New York’s
Marine Company 9. Earlier this year, Edwards organized Moved
by the Motion: Sudden Rise, a series of performances based on
a text co-written by Wu Tsang, boychild, and Fred Moten,
which presented a collage of words, film, movements, and sounds.
Performa, Edwards realized new boundary-defying commissions,
as well as pathfinding conferences and film programs with a wide
range of over forty international artists. While at the Walker, she
co-led the institution-wide Mellon Foundation Interdisciplinary
Initiative, an effort to expand ways of commissioning, studying,
collecting, documenting, and conserving cross-disciplinary works.
Edwards’s curatorial projects have included the critically
acclaimed exhibition and catalogue Blackness in Abstraction,
hosted by Pace Gallery in 2016. She also organized Frieze’s
Artist Awardand Live program in New York in 2018. Edwards
taught art history and visual studies at New York University
and The New School, and she is a contributor to the National
Gallery of Art’s Center for the Advanced Study in Visual Art’s
forthcoming publication Black Modernisms.
Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve
Crown Family Chief Curator, said, “David and Adrienne truly
represent the best spirit and ideals of the Whitney. Not only are
they devoted to—and beloved by—living artists, but they bring to
the art of our time a deep historical and scholarly awareness. The
most recent editions of the Biennial have reaffirmed its vitality and
relevance, and I look forward to discovering how another pair of
Whitney curators will lend their voices to our signature exhibition.”