The Whitney Museum of American Art To Present Two-Floor Exhibition In Celebration Of The Portrait

Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection Complete The Reinstallation Of The Whitney’s Collection In Its New Building

The Selfie, often seen as the height of narcissism in what is essentially an increasingly narcissistic world, is the modern version of what has long been a celebrated art form throughout history: The Portrait. Portraits are one of the richest veins of the Whitney’s collection, thanks to the Museum’s longstanding commitment to the figurative tradition, championed by its founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

The mysterious power and fascination of the portrait—and the ingenious ways in which artists have been expanding the definition of portraiture over the past 100 years—are celebrated in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, to be presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art this spring. The works included in this exhibition propose diverse and often unconventional ways of representing an individual. Many artists reconsider the pursuit of external likeness—portraiture’s usual objective—within formal or conceptual explorations or reject it altogether. Some revel in the genre’s glamour and allure, while others critique its elitist associations and instead call attention to the banal or even the grotesque.

Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition features more than 300 works made from 1900 to 2016 by an extraordinary range of more than 200 artists, roughly half of whom are living. The show will be organized in twelve thematic sections on two floors of the Museum, with works in all media installed side by side. Floor Six, predominantly focused on art since 1960, opens first, on April 6; Floor Seven, which includes works from the first half of the twentieth century alongside more contemporary offerings, will open on April 27. The exhibition will remain on view through February 12, 2017.

Once a rarified luxury good, portraits are now ubiquitous. Readily reproducible and ever-more accessible, photography has played a particularly vital role in the democratization of portraiture, and will be strongly represented in the exhibition. Most recently, the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of social media have unleashed an unprecedented stream of portraits in the form of selfies and other online posts. Many contemporary artists confront this situation, stressing the fluidity of identity in a world where technology and the mass-media are omnipresent. Through their varied takes on the portrait, the artists in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection demonstrate the vitality of this enduring genre, which serves as a compelling lens through which to view some of the most important social and artistic developments of the past century.

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Barkley L. Hendricks (b. 1945). Steve, (1976). Oil, acrylic, and Magna on linen canvas, 72 × 48in. (182.9 × 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase and gift with funds from the Arthur M. Bullowa Bequest by exchange, the Jack E. Chachkes Endowed Purchase Fund, and the Wilfred P. and Rose J. Cohen Purchase Fund 2015.101. Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

Many iconic works from the collection will be included by such artists as Alexander Calder, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol. In addition, a number of major new acquisitions will be exhibited at the Whitney for the first time, including Barkley L. Hendricks’s full-length 1976 portrait, Steve; Urs Fischer’s 2015 towering candle sculpture of Julian Schnabel (making its debut); Joan Semmel’s painting of two nude lovers, Touch (1977); Henry Taylor’s depiction of Black Panther leader Huey Newton (2007); Deana Lawson’s striking color photograph The Garden (2015); and Rosalyn Drexler’s Pop masterwork Marilyn Pursued by Death (1963). The exhibition will extend to the Museum’s outdoor galleries on Floors Seven and Six, the latter of which will feature Paul McCarthy’s monumental bronze sculpture White Snow #3 (2012), also a new acquisition.

Following is a selection of several of the sections in which the exhibition will be divided:

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST

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Edward Hopper (1882‑1967). (Self‑Portrait), (1925‑1930). Oil on canvas, Overall: 25 3/8 × 20 3/8in. (64.5 × 51.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1165. © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by Whitney Museum of American Art

On the seventh floor, the section “Portrait of the Artist” brings together self-portraits with portraits of artists and other members of the creative community, a moving window into the way artists see themselves and their relationships with one another. On view will be Edward Hopper’s iconic self-portrait in oil in a brown hat, as well as a pair of drawings by Hopper and Guy Pène du Bois, each depicting the other and made during a single sitting. Other works depict artists with the tools of their trade—Ilse Bing is seen in a photograph holding the shutter release of her camera; Mabel Dwight uses a mirror as an aid in drawing herself; Andreas Feininger photographs himself regarding a strip of film through a magnifying glass. Other works in this section include Cy Twombly photographed by Robert Rauschenberg; Jasper Johns by Richard Avedon; Georgia O’Keeffe drawn by Peggy Bacon; Edgard Varèse sculpted in wire by Alexander Calder; Langston Hughes photographed by Roy DeCarava; Berenice Abbott by Walker Evans; Yasuo Kuniyoshi by Arnold Newman; and a double portrait of Joseph Stella and Marcel Duchamp taken by Man Ray.

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Rachel Harrison (b. 1966). Untitled, (2011). Colored pencil on paper, Sheet: 19 × 24in. (48.3 × 61 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Drawing Committee 2012.81. © Rachel Harrison

EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY CELEBRITY AND SPECTACLE

In the early decades of the twentieth century, a spectrum of new, popular leisure pursuits—vaudeville, theater, cabaret, sporting events, and above all, motion pictures—thrust performers and entertainers into the public eye as never before. For the crowds that flocked to see them, the stars of these entertainments became larger-than-life figures, and an array of media outlets, from tabloid newspapers to glossy magazines to radio, sprang up to broadcast their exploits to captivated audiences across the nation. Artists eagerly delved into these new phenomena, creating portraits that stoked the public’s growing fascination with celebrities. At the turn of the century, painters such as Howard Cushing and Everett Shinn investigated the changing terms of fame and glamour as flashy public spectacles eclipsed Gilded Age refinement. Following World War I many artists joined in the commercial opportunities offered by the booming entertainment industry—particularly photographers, whose easily reproducible images carried a special air of authenticity. Foremost among them, Edward Steichen pioneered the aesthetic of the “closeup” in his stylish magazine portraits of movie stars and other luminaries, such as Marlene Dietrich, Dolores Del Rio, and Paul Robeson. Other photographers such as James Van Der Zee, Toyo Miyatake, and Carl Van Vechten called attention to vanguard performers whose race or ethnicity placed them outside the mainstream, challenging the sanitized imperatives of popular culture.

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Toyo Miyatake (1895‑1979). Michio Ito, (1929). Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 14 × 10 7/8in. (35.6 × 27.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee 2014.241. © Toyo Miyatake Studio

STREET LIFE

Under the rubric of “Street Life” the exhibition presents artists who took to the pavement with their cameras, photographing subjects as they encountered them, sometimes surreptitiously. These images, which often capture fleeting, serendipitous moments, present a counterpoint to the premeditated, sedentary sitter of historical portraits. At the turn of the last century it became clear that the camera could become an apparatus for the indictment of a society’s ills and a group of socially aware photographers became activists in addition to observers of the urban environment. An early work in the exhibition, Lewis Hine’s Newsies at Skeeters Branch, St. Louis, Missouri (c. 1910), exemplifies this type of politically motivated street photography. Other works documenting the spectacle of urban life include Walker Evans’s subway photographs; Helen Levitt’s images taken on the streets of Yorktown and Spanish Harlem; and examples from Garry Winogrand’s Women Are Beautiful portfolio. Artists featured in this section also include Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and Nan Goldin. The tradition of street photography is carried through to more recent works by Dawoud Bey and Philip-Lorca di Corcia.

PORTRAITS WITHOUT PEOPLE

Is likeness essential to portraiture? The works in this section, spanning the past one hundred years, ask this question as they pursue alternate means for capturing an individual’s personality, values, and experiences. Often, the presence of the individual or his or her character is implied through objects and symbols that resonate with hidden meaning. Gerald Murphy’s Cocktail (1927), a bold, Jazz Age still life suggests a uniquely autobiographical approach: the accoutrements of a typical 1920s bar tray were based on Murphy’s memory of his father’s bar accessories and the cigar box cover shows a robed woman surrounded by items that allude to Murphy himself, including a boat (he was an avid sailor) and an artist’s palette. Marsden Hartley’s Painting, Number 5 (1914–15), a portrait of Karl von Freyburg, uses German imperial military regalia to stand in for the presence of the officer with whom the artist had fallen in love. In Summer Days (1936), Georgia O’Keeffe adopted the animal skull and vibrant desert wildflowers as surrogates for herself, symbols of the cycles of life and death that shape the desert world she made her home. Jasper Johns’s portrait of a Savarin coffee can full of brushes stands for Johns himself; and James Welling’s portrait of Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT, may be viewed as a sort of portrait of the famous architect. In a number of works in this section, body parts or personal possessions may allude to the subject, such as Jay DeFeo’s teeth; Alfred Stieglitz’s hat; and Ed Ruscha’s shoes. Forgoing likeness in favor of allusion and enigma, these artists expand the possibilities of the portrait, while also acknowledging that the quest to depict others—and even ourselves—is elusive. Continue reading

The Whitney Museum of American Art Announces New Expansion of its Leadership Team

Appoints Donna De Salvo to New Position of Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, and Scott Rothkopf to Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator

Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, today announced that the Museum is expanding its leadership team by appointing Donna De Salvo to the new position of Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, and Scott Rothkopf to Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, effective July 1, 2015. The move is designed to bolster the Whitney’s leadership in response to the recent growth of the Museum, the ever-widening programming opportunities available in its new building, and in anticipation of the greater role the Museum expects to play on the internationally art front.

In her new role, Donna De Salvo, who has served as the Whitney’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs since 2006, will help lead the Museum’s efforts to define and communicate an expanded and more complex understanding of American art and artists in contemporary culture globally. In addition to organizing exhibitions, De Salvo will encourage greater visibility for the Whitney through programs, professional exchanges,

Donna De Salvo, the new Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator at The Whitney Museum of American Art

Donna De Salvo, the new Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator at The Whitney Museum of American Art

and institutional development. De Salvo will also be involved in long-term strategic planning for the institution.

In addition to leading the curatorial team for the Whitney’s inaugural collection display America Is Hard to See, Miss De Salvo has curated Full House: The Whitney’s Collection at 75 (2006) and Robert Irwin: Scrim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1977) (2013). Among the exhibitions she has co-curated are Sinister Pop (2012–13, with Scott Rothkopf), Signs & Symbols (2012, with Jane Panetta), Lawrence Weiner: AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE (2007–08, with Ann Goldstein) and Roni Horn aka Roni Horn (2009–10, with Carter Foster and Mark Godfrey). With Linda Norden, she co-curated Course of Empire: Paintings by Ed Ruscha for the United States Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale, an exhibition that was also presented at the Whitney (2005–06).

Prior to working at the Whitney, De Salvo served for five years as a Senior Curator at Tate Modern, London, where she curated such exhibitions such as Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 (2005); Marsyas (Anish Kapoor’s 2003 work commissioned by Tate Modern for its Turbine Hall); and Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (2001). Among the exhibitions she has curated at other institutions are Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955–1962 (MOCA Los Angeles, 1992–93), Staging Surrealism (Wexner Center for the Arts, 1997–98), and A Museum Looks at Itself: Mapping Past and Present at the Parrish Art Museum (Parrish Art Museum, 1992).

From 1981 to 1986, De Salvo was a curator at the Dia Art Foundation, where she worked closely with several of its artists, including John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. A noted expert on the work of Warhol, she was Adjunct Curator for the Andy Warhol Museum and was curator of Andy Warhol: Disaster Paintings, 1963 (Dia Art Foundation, 1986), Andy Warhol: Hand-Painted Images, 1960–62 (Dia Art Foundation, 1987), “Success is a Job in New York”: The early art and business of Andy Warhol (Grey Art Gallery, 1989), and a retrospective of the artist’s work at Tate Modern (2002). She is currently developing a thematic retrospective of Warhol’s work to be presented at the Whitney in 2018.

She has written catalogues and essays and lectured on a wide range of modern and contemporary artists, including Barbara Bloom, Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, William Eggleston, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Philip Guston, Wade Guyton, Ray Johnson, Anish Kapoor, Per Kirkeby, Barbara Kruger, Giorgio Morandi, Barnett Newman, Chris Ofili, Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson, Cy Twombly, Mark Wallinger, and Gillian Wearing. A recipient of the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award from the College Art Association, she has participated in many international juries and review panels and has taught at the curatorial studies programs at Bard College and The Royal College of Art.

Donna De Salvo stated, “I am delighted to be entrusted with the responsibilities of this new position to carry forward our work and to further enhance and extend what American art means on a world stage. I believe we have created a framework, both architecturally and programmatically, that provides endless possibilities in future. I am especially excited by the prospect of working together with Scott Rothkopf in his new role and on our expanded mission for the Museum.”

Scott Rothkopf, presently Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs, joined the Whitney as Curator in 2009. In his new role, he will oversee the curatorial department and exhibition activities, direct the growth and display of the collection, and shape the Whitney’s programmatic vision. Taking advantage of the Museum’s new and greatly increased indoor and outdoor spaces, he will oversee expanded visual,

Scott Rothkopf, The Whitney's new  Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator

Scott Rothkopf, The Whitney’s new Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator

performing, and media arts offerings as well as continue to organize exhibitions himself.

Rothkopf most recently served on the curatorial team responsible for the Whitney’s inaugural collection display America Is Hard to See. At the Whitney he has also curated Mary Heilmann: Sunset (2015), Jeff Koons: A Retrospective (2014), Sinister Pop (2012–13, with Donna De Salvo),Wade Guyton OS (2012–13), Glenn Ligon: AMERICA (2011), Singular Visions (2010, with Dana Miller), and Whitney on Site: Guyton\Walker (2010).

Prior to joining the Whitney, Rothkopf served as Senior Editor of Artforum International from 2004 through 2009, where he was a frequent contributor of feature reviews and essays. He began his curatorial career at the Harvard University Art Museums, organizing Mel Bochner: Photographs, 1966–1969 (2002) and Huyghe + Corbusier: Harvard Project (2004, with Linda Norden). He also served as a contributing curator to the Biennale de Lyon in 2007, for a project with Guyton.

Rothkopf has published widely on the work of contemporary artists, including Paul Chan, Diller and Scofidio, Carroll Dunham, Katharina Fritsch, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Josiah McElheny, Takashi Murakami, Laura Owens, Elizabeth Peyton, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Paul Thek, Kelley Walker, T. J. Wilcox, Terry Winters, and Karen Kilimnik, who was the subject of his 2007 book, Period Eye: Karen Kilimnik’s Fancy Pictures, co-authored with Meredith Martin. He also served as editor of Yourself in the World (2011), a volume of the collected writings and interviews of Glenn Ligon.

Rothkopf is a member of the board of trustees of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and has been a visiting critic at Hunter College, Yale University’s School of Art, and the University of Southern California, among many others. He has served on numerous juries, including those of the Deste Foundation and the American Academy in Rome. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University.

Rothkopf stated, “The Whitney has long been known as the artists’ museum, a reputation that captures our intimate and profound commitment to artists and their work. In our new home we will further develop our venturesome approach to challenging exhibitions, collection displays, and an innovative performance program, as well as create new connections among them. It is a great honor to be chosen to take this project forward and to expand on the extraordinary accomplishments of Donna De Salvo.”

In announcing the new positions, Weinberg stated, “The Whitney is poised to take on greater challenges and growing its leadership is essential to extending the Museum’s reach. No one is better prepared to take on the important work of redefining the Whitney’s role on the international stage than Donna De Salvo, whose experience, insight, and innovative thinking have been central to our move downtown. As can be seen in the presentation of the Whitney’s collection in our new home, led brilliantly by Donna, we are exploring as never before the layered, nuanced, and changing meanings of the term ‘American art’ within contemporary global culture. In her new role, Donna will build on that experimentation and thinking.

Scott Rothkopf has brought a singular combination of scholarship, critical acumen, and curatorial talent to the Whitney,” Weinberg continued. “His achievements over the past half-dozen years have been remarkable; his vision, inventiveness, and leadership abilities are manifest. We’re proud to welcome him as our new Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, charged with overseeing all facets of the Museum’s curatorial program. Scott’s enthusiasm, energy, and passion for the Whitney’s mission—with living artists at its core—make him the perfect choice to expand and enrich our curatorial offerings at this historic turning point for the Whitney. We are particularly grateful to our trustee Nancy Crown and her husband Steve for so generously endowing this position.