2017 Whitney Biennial, The First To Take Place In The Museum’s Downtown Building, To Open March 17

The formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society are among the key themes reflected in the work of the artists selected for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art on March 17, 2016 and running through June 11, 2017. Curated by the Whitney’s Nancy and Fred Poses Associate Curator Christopher Y. Lew and independent curator Mia Locks, this will be the first Biennial held in the Whitney’s (still new) home in the Meatpacking District. The country’s preeminent survey of the current state of American art, this is the seventy-eighth in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials, initiated by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932.unnamed-1

Lew and Locks named the sixty-three participants (see complete list below), whose works will fill two of the four main gallery floors of the Whitney (including the 18,000-square-foot Neil Bluhm Family Galleries on the fifth floor) and numerous other spaces throughout the Museum. The participants range from emerging to well-established individuals and collectives working in painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, activism, performance, music, and video game design.

Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, said, “Since we opened our new building, we’ve reignited our emerging artist program with venturesome solo premieres and ‘snapshot’ shows of new tendencies. This Biennial, the largest ever in terms of gallery space, marks the capstone of these efforts. Chris and Mia have done an amazing job scouring the country to discover new talents, while creating lively connections to senior figures and our roiling social landscape.”

Lew commented that, “Throughout our research and travel we’ve been moved by the impassioned discussions we had about recent tumult in society, politics, and the economic system. It’s been unavoidable as we met with artists, fellow curators, writers, and other cultural producers across the United States and beyond.” Locks noted: “Against this backdrop, many of the participating artists are asking probing questions about the self and the social, and where these intersect. How do we think and live through these lenses? How and where do they fall short?

Rothkopf is leading a team of advisors who are working closely with Lew and Locks to help shape the exhibition. They include: Negar Azimi, writer and senior editor at Bidoun, an award-winning publishing, curatorial, and educational initiative with a focus on the Middle East and its diasporas; Gean Moreno, curator of programs at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami and founder of [NAME] Publications; Aily Nash, co-curator of Projections, the New York Film Festival’s artists’s film and video section, and Film and Media Curator at Basilica Hudson; and Wendy Yao, a publisher and founder of both the exhibition space 356 South Mission Road and Ooga Booga, a shop with two Los Angeles locations that specializes in independent books, music, art, and clothing. Nash, together with the curators, is co-organizing the Biennial film program, which will screen in the Whitney’s third-floor Susan and John Hess Family Theater.

The 2017 Biennial will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, designed by Olga Casellas Badillo of San Juan-based Tiguere Corp., which includes essays by the curators as well as Biennial advisors Negar Azimi and Gean Moreno, a conversation between the curators and Scott Rothkopf, and a roundtable with filmmakers moderated by Aily Nash. The book will also feature individual entries on each of the sixty-three participants in the exhibition along with reproductions of their work. It will be published by the Whitney Museum of American Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

The full list of artists are as follows: Continue reading

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

Youth is Served: The Whitney Announces Curators For 2017 Biennial

This Will Be The First Presentation Of The Biennial In The Whitney’s New Downtown Building.

With a history of exhibiting the most promising and influential artists and provoking debate, the Whitney Biennial—the Museum’s signature exhibition—is the most important 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.

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that the 2017 Whitney Biennial will be co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks. This will be the seventy-eighth in the Museum’s series of Annual and Biennial exhibitions inaugurated in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. The Museum’s signature survey of contemporary art in the United States, the Biennial goes on view in spring 2017. It will be the first Biennial presented in the Whitney’s new building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The 2017 Whitney Biennial is presented by Tiffany & Co, lead sponsor of the Biennial through 2021.

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that the 2017 Whitney Biennial will be co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks.

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that the 2017 Whitney Biennial will be co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks.

Christopher Y. Lew is Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he has organized the first US solo exhibitions for Rachel Rose and Jared Madere. He has also organized, with Curator and Curator of Performance Jay Sanders, the first US theatrical presentation by New Theater.

His upcoming exhibitions at the Whitney include a solo show by Sophia Al-Maria (summer 2016). Prior to joining the Whitney in 2014, he held positions at MoMA PS1 since 2006 and organized numerous exhibitions including the group shows New Pictures of Common Objects (2012) and Taster’s Choice (2014). His notable solo shows include Clifford Owens: Anthology (2011), GCC: Achievements in Retrospective (2014), James Ferraro: 100% (2014), and Jack Smith: Normal Love (2013), which received an award from the International Association of Art Critics. Lew has contributed to several publications including Art AsiaPacific, Art Journal, Bomb, Huffington Post, and Mousse.

From 2013 until recently, Mia Locks was Assistant Curator at MoMA PS1, where she organized exhibitions including Math Bass: Off the Clock (2015); IM Heung-soon: Reincarnation (2015); Samara Golden: The Flat Side of the Knife (2014); and The Little Things Could Be Dearer (2014). Prior to MoMA PS1, Locks organized Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945–1980 (2012), with David Frantz, at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative. From 2010 to 2013, she worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), where she helped to organize Blues for Smoke (2012), which traveled to the Whitney, and Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland (2013), both with Bennett Simpson. Locks was part of the curatorial team for the Greater New York exhibition now on view at MoMA PS1. She is currently publishing a book on the work of Samara Golden, forthcoming in December 2015.

Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, said, “With the opening of the new building, we’re rededicating ourselves to the Whitney’s longstanding commitment to emerging artists. Chris’s keen eye has been critical to this renewed focus in our program, which just launched with his presentations of Jared Madere, Rachel Rose, and New Theater. Mia’s interest in both historical figures and new tendencies, as well her years on the West Coast will add important perspective to the Biennial. The two of them have great intellectual chemistry, and it’s exciting to see the first Biennial in our new home in the hands of such talented young curators.

Whitney Museum of American Art, May 2015. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Whitney Museum of American Art, May 2015. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

The Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director Adam D. Weinberg noted: “Every Whitney Biennial is a galvanizing process for the Museum, a tradition that goes back to the institution’s roots while retaining its freshness and immediacy. Endeavoring to gauge the state of art in America today, the Biennial demands curators who are attuned to the art of the current moment and there is no question that Chris Lew and Mia Locks have their fingers on the pulse. The expanded spaces and possibilities offered by our new downtown building will make this Biennial particularly lively and groundbreaking.” Continue reading

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist at The Whitney Museum of American Art

The most eye-opening take-away I got from attending the preview of (both) the new Whitney Museum of American Art in downtown Manhattan (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014, (212) 570-3600, info@whitney.org) and the inaugural exhibit, America is Hard to See, is, as much as I love art (and how much I have read on the subject over the years), it was astonishing how much I DID NOT know.

We all know Jackson Pollack, but how much do we know about his wife, Lee Krasner, an accomplished artist in her own right whose own career often was seriously compromised by her role as supportive wife to Pollock, arguably the one of the most significant postwar American painter, as well as by the male-dominated art world? We know Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Georgia O’Keefe, but we should also know more about Arthur Dove, Imogene Cunningham, Florine Stettheimer, James Daugherty, Eldzier Cortor, Raphael Montanez Ortiz, Eva Hesse, Lari Pitmman, and Nam June Park, and so many others, all among the 400 artists represented in more than 600 works of arts in “America is Hard to See“.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was borne out of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s advocacy on behalf of living American artists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists with new ideas found it nearly impossible to exhibit or sell their work in the United States. Recognizing the obstacles these artists faced, Mrs. Whitney began purchasing and showing their work, thereby becoming the leading patron of American art from 1907 until her death in 1942.

In 1914, Mrs. Whitney established The Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village, where she presented exhibitions by living American artists whose work had been disregarded by the traditional

Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891-1981)

Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891-1981)

academies. By 1929 she had assembled a collection of more than 500 works, which she offered with an endowment to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. When the offer was refused, she set up her own museum, one with a new and radically different mandate: to focus exclusively on the art and artists of this country. The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1930, and opened in 1931 on West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village.

Since its inception in 1931, the Whitney has championed American art and artists by assembling a rich permanent collection and featuring a rigorous and varied schedule of exhibition programs, which is why the upcoming exhibition, Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, (October 2, 2015–January 17, 2016) is so important. It introduces us to yet another artist we should know and whose work defined the life and times in America.

 Archibald J. Motley Jr., Blues, (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 inches (91.4 x 106.7 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Blues, (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 inches (91.4 x 106.7 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald Motley was one of the most important figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance (although he never lived in Harlem) and is best known as both a master colorist and a radical interpreter of urban culture.First shown at the Nasher Museum at Duke University in early 2014 and organized and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell (John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University), Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is the first full-scale survey of his paintings in two decades, featuring mesmerizing portraits and vibrant cultural scenes painted between 1919 to 1961. The installation at the Whitney Museum will be overseen by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Barbecue, (detail), c. 1934. Oil on canvas, 39 x 44 inches (99.1 x 111.76 cm). Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Barbecue, (detail), c. 1934. Oil on canvas, 39 x 44 inches (99.1 x 111.76 cm). Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

 Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (Holy Rollers), (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 29.25 x 36.125 inches (74.3 x 91.8 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (Holy Rollers), (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 29.25 x 36.125 inches (74.3 x 91.8 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

The exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to carefully examine Motley’s dynamic depictions of modern life in his home town, Chicago, as well as in Jazz Age Paris and Mexico. Specifically, it will highlight his unique use of both expressionism and social realism and will resituate this underexposed artist within a broader, art historical context. The exhibition will be presented in the sky-lit eighth floor galleries of the new Whitney during its inaugural year.

Motley is one of the most significant yet least visible 20th-century artists, despite the broad appeal of his paintings. Many of his most important portraits and cultural scenes remain in private collections; few museums have had the opportunity to acquire his work. With a survey that spans 40 years, Archibald Motley introduces the artist’s canvases of riotous color to wider audiences and reveals his continued impact on art history.

According to Powell in a previous interview, ” There was a major retrospective of Archibald Motley that was done in the early 1990s by the Chicago Historical Society, now known as the Chicago History Museum. Why are we looking at him again? The show that was done in 1991 was a broad introduction to his art and career. It was less focused and broad and general. I had a chance to see that show and enjoyed it immensely. But as we have moved beyond that moment and into the 21st century and as we have moved into the era of post-modernism, particularly that category post-black, I really felt that it would be worth revisiting Archibald Motley to look more critically at his work, to investigate his wry sense of humor, his use of irony in his paintings, his interrogations of issues around race and identity.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Mending Socks, 1924. Oil on canvas, 43.875 x 40 inches (111.4 x 101.6 cm). Collection of the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2801. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Mending Socks, 1924. Oil on canvas, 43.875 x 40 inches (111.4 x 101.6 cm). Collection of the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2801. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald John Motley, Junior (September 2, 1891, New Orleans, Louisiana – January 16, 1981, Chicago, Illinois) was an American painter. He studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1910s and is most famous for his colorful chronicling of the African-American experience during the 1920s and 1930s, and considered one of the major contributors to the Harlem Renaissance.

Archibald J. Motley, Jr., Black Belt, (detail), 1934. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40.5 inches (83.8 x 102.9 cm). Collection of the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley, Jr., Black Belt, (detail), 1934. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40.5 inches (83.8 x 102.9 cm). Collection of the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Unlike many other Harlem Renaissance artists, Archibald Motley, Jr. never lived in Harlem—-he was born in New Orleans and spent the majority of his life in Chicago. His was the only black family in a fairly affluent, white, European neighborhood. His social class enabled him to have the benefit of classical training at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was awarded the Harmon Foundation Award in 1928, and then became the first African-American to have a one-man exhibit in New York City. He sold twenty-two out of the twenty-six exhibited paintings–an impressive feat for an emerging black artist.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Self-Portrait (Myself at Work), 1933. Oil on canvas, 57.125 x 45.25 inches (145.1 x 114.9 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Self-Portrait (Myself at Work), 1933. Oil on canvas, 57.125 x 45.25 inches (145.1 x 114.9 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

In 1927 he had applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship and was denied, but he reapplied and won the fellowship in 1929. He studied in France for a year, and chose not to extend his fellowship another six months. While many contemporary artists looked back to Africa for inspiration, Motley was inspired by the great Renaissance masters available at the Louvre. He found in the artwork there a formal sophistication and maturity that could give depth to his own work, particularly in the Dutch painters and the genre images of Delacroix, Hals, and Rembrandt. Motley’s portraits take the conventions of the Western tradition and update them–allowing for black bodies, specifically black female bodies, a space in a history that had traditionally excluded them.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Brown Girl After the Bath, 1931. Oil on canvas, 48.25 x 36 inches (122.6 x 91.4 cm). Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2007.015. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Brown Girl After the Bath, 1931. Oil on canvas, 48.25 x 36 inches (122.6 x 91.4 cm). Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2007.015. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., The Octoroon Girl, 1925. Oil on canvas, 38 x 30.25 inches (96.5 x 76.8 cm). Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, New York. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., The Octoroon Girl, 1925. Oil on canvas, 38 x 30.25 inches (96.5 x 76.8 cm). Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, New York. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Motley was incredibly interested in skin tone, and did numerous portraits documenting women of varying blood quantities (“octoroon,” “quadroon,” “mulatto”). These portraits celebrate skin tone as something diverse, inclusive, and pluralistic. The also demonstrate an understanding that these categorizations become synonymous with public identity and influence one’s opportunities in life. It is often difficult if not impossible to tell what kind of racial mixture the subject has without referring to the title. These physical markers of blackness, then, are unstable and unreliable, and Motley exposed that difference.

As Powell later reiterated, “Motley [was] very attuned to the racial politics of his time. He knows that African Americans during this time struggled around issues of class and race and identity and that he can get a rise out of audiences and viewers when he explores a range of subjects that might be viewed by some people as stereotypic. He is consciously doing this. He is willfully doing this to get people to engage with the work, but also ultimately to move beyond a simplistic representation or a simplistic sense of what black people should or shouldn’t look like. He wants to mix things up to make you come to terms with the richness of the subject as it is represented from one painting to another.” Continue reading

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO ATTEND WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART DEDICATION CEREMONY

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama will be the special guest (and speaker) at the Dedication Ceremony and Official Ribbon-Cutting for the new downtown New York City home of the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014) on Thursday, April 30, 2015, at 11 am. The Whitney’s new building returns the Museum to downtown Manhattan where it was founded in 1930 by artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. The 220,000-square-foot building in the Meatpacking District doubles the Museum’s exhibition space, enabling the Whitney to present its innovative exhibitions and programs in the context of the world’s foremost collection of twentieth-century and contemporary American art. The building opens to the public on Friday, May 1, 2015.

A view of the building from the High Line, November 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

A view of the building from the High Line, November 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

A view of the High Line and the building’s eastern face, December 2014. Photograph by Ed Lederman

A view of the High Line and the building’s eastern face, December 2014. Photograph by Ed Lederman

The new building viewed from across the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

The new building viewed from across the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Other distinguished guests and speakers will include Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York; Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art; Renzo Piano, architect; Chairman and Founding Partner, Renzo Piano Building WorkshopRobert J. Hurst, Co-Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees; Brooke Garber Neidich, Co-Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees; Neil G. Bluhm, President, Whitney Board of Trustees and Flora Miller Biddle, Honorary Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees, and granddaughter of Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Other participants will include Matana Roberts, composer and alto saxophonist, performing a commissioned musical work, Incantation, The Wooster Group, renowned experimental theater company, performing the ribbon-cutting, and teens from the Whitney’s Youth Insights Program. Admittance to the ceremony is by invitation only but a live webcast will be available to the public at whitney.org/Dedication.

The Meatpacking District is a twenty-square-block neighborhood on the far West Side of Manhattan. Surrounding the meatpacking plants just north of Gansevoort Street are some of New York’s most notable restaurants, bars, fashion boutiques, clubs, and hotels. The neighborhood is bordered to the north and east by Chelsea, renowned for its art galleries, cultural organizations, and educational institutions. To the south is the West Village and its nineteenth-century townhouses, charming streets, and unique shops. To the west is the Hudson River. (Photography by Timothy Schenck)

The Meatpacking District is a twenty-square-block neighborhood on the far West Side of Manhattan. Surrounding the meatpacking plants just north of Gansevoort Street are some of New York’s most notable restaurants, bars, fashion boutiques, clubs, and hotels. The neighborhood is bordered to the north and east by Chelsea, renowned for its art galleries, cultural organizations, and educational institutions. To the south is the West Village and its nineteenth-century townhouses, charming streets, and unique shops. To the west is the Hudson River. (Photography by Timothy Schenck)

Situated between the High Line and the Hudson River in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the new building will vastly increase the Whitney’s exhibition and programming space, offering the most expansive display ever of its unsurpassed collection of modern and contemporary American art.

Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph by Ed Lederman

Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph by Ed Lederman

The High Line is New York City’s newest and most unique public park. Located thirty feet above street level on a 1930s freight railway, the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street  in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. It features an integrated landscape combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings.

The High Line is New York City’s newest and most unique public park. Located thirty feet above street level on a 1930s freight railway, the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. It features an integrated landscape combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings.

The fifth floor gallery’s east-facing window, seen from below, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

The fifth floor gallery’s east-facing window, seen from below, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

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The new building in the evening, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

The new building in the evening, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Workers constructing the exterior stairs, December 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Workers constructing the exterior stairs, December 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck

Upclose exterior view of the (new) Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District.  Photograph by Ed Lederman

Upclose exterior view of the (new) Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District. Photograph by Ed Lederman

Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Nic Lehoux

Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Nic Lehoux

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the new building will include approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space and terraces facing the High Line. An expansive gallery for special exhibitions will be approximately 18,000 square feet in area, making it the largest column-free museum gallery in New York City. Additional exhibition space includes a lobby gallery (accessible free of charge), two floors for the permanent collection, and a special exhibitions gallery on the top floor.

According to Mr. Piano, “The design for the new museum emerges equally from a close study of the Whitney’s needs and from a response to this remarkable site. We wanted to draw on its vitality and at the same time enhance its rich character. The first big gesture, then, is the cantilevered entrance, which transforms the area outside the building into a large, sheltered public space. At this gathering place beneath the High Line, visitors will see through the building entrance and the large windows on the west side to the Hudson River beyond. Here, all at once, you have the water, the park, the powerful industrial structures and the exciting mix of people, brought together and focused by this new building and the experience of art.”

The dramatically cantilevered entrance along Gansevoort Street will shelter an 8,500-square-foot outdoor plaza or “largo,” a public gathering space steps away from the southern entrance to the High Line. The building also will include an education center offering state-of-the-art classrooms; a multi-use black box theater for film, video, and performance with an adjacent outdoor gallery; a 170-seat theater with stunning views of the Hudson River; and a Works on Paper Study Center, Conservation Lab, and Library Reading Room. The classrooms, theater, and study center are all firsts for the Whitney.

A retail shop on the ground-floor level will contribute to the busy street life of the area. A ground-floor restaurant and top-floor cafe will be conceived and operated by renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group, which operated +Untitled+, the restaurant in the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer building on the Upper East Side, until programming there concluded on October 19.

Mr. Piano’s design takes a strong and strikingly asymmetrical form—one that responds to the industrial character of the neighboring loft buildings and overhead railway while asserting a contemporary, sculptural presence. The upper stories of the building overlook the Hudson River on its west, and step back gracefully from the elevated High Line Park to its east.

The campaign for the new Whitney goes far beyond the creation of a new museum facility that will showcase and safeguard the Museum’s irreplaceable collection. It is an investment in future generations of artists and the growing audiences who will engage with their work.  Continue reading

THE WHITNEY ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL YEAR EXHIBITIONS FOR ITS NEW DOWNTOWN HOME

When The Whitney Museum of American Art‘s new Renzo Piano-designed home on Gansevoort Street (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014 (212) 570-3600) opens its doors on May 1, 2015, the inaugural installation will be the largest display to date of the Whitney’s permanent collection. The inaugural exhibition, America is Hard to See, presents a distinctly Whitney narrative drawn entirely from the Museum’s unparalleled permanent collection of 20th- and 21st-century American art. This ambitious display will offer new perspectives on art in the United States since 1900, following the Whitney’s in-depth analysis of its collection of more than 20,000 works, an initiative that has been underway since 2012. The opening presentation will fill over 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, utilizing all galleries in the building, and it will celebrate the Whitney’s extraordinary new home and the richness of American art. The sweep of the collection is echoed in the building’s magnificent multiple perspectives: the new Whitney looks south toward the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, east into the city, and west across the Hudson toward the expanse of the country.

 

The Whitney Museum of American Art. View from the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Tim Schenck.

The Whitney Museum of American Art. View from the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Tim Schenck.

Following this distinctly Whitney narrative will be an array of exhibitions devoted to the work of Archibald Motley, Frank Stella, Laura Poitras, and David Wojnarowicz, as well as a show of hundreds of works gifted to the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou in Paris by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner.

The Whitney has been steadily building a remarkable world-class collection of American art since our founding by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, much of which has remained largely unseen,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director. “This transformative moment—the opening of our beautiful new home downtown—calls for a fresh look at ourselves and is the perfect occasion for us to celebrate our collection, the essence of who we are.

Led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, a team of Whitney curators, including Carter Foster, Dana Miller, and Scott Rothkopf, has conducted an unprecedented study of the collection in consultation and debate with other members of the curatorial department as well as artists, curators, and scholars from a variety of fields. Throughout this process, the team has rediscovered forgotten works and figures that will be shown alongside the Museum’s iconic treasures in order to provide a challenging and revealing take on more than a century of art in the United States. This narrative will be propelled by a dynamic sense of invention and even conflict, as artists struggled to work within and against established conventions and often directly engaged their political and social contexts. Works of art across all mediums will be displayed together, acknowledging the important ways in which modern and contemporary artists have engaged various modes of production and broken the boundaries among them.

Miss De Salvo noted, “The new building is a game changer for the Whitney and, we hope, New York’s cultural landscape. Our program—a mix of exhibitions, screenings, performances, and permanent collection presentations—will demonstrate that while the Whitney remains committed to embracing the art of the present, it can now do so against the backdrop of over a hundred years of history. Our aim is to present history and artistic production as an open, rather than closed chapter.”

 

On the occasion of the opening of the new building, the Museum will publish an expanded handbook of the collection, its first since 2002, featuring 350 artists. A companion volume will explore the Whitney’s core philosophy through essays discussing the Museum’s history and the ongoing reinvention of its display strategies and changing definitions of American art in a global context. Following is a list of selected exhibitions that will be presented during the Museum’s first year downtown.

ARCHIBALD MOTLEY: JAZZ AGE MODERNIST
OCT 2, 2015–JAN 17, 2016

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Archibald Motley (1891—1981) was one of the most important figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance and is best known as both a master colorist and a radical interpreter of urban culture. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is the first full-scale survey of his paintings in two decades. The exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to carefully examine Motley’s dynamic depictions of modern life in his home town, Chicago, as well as in Jazz Age Paris and Mexico. Specifically, it will highlight his unique use of both expressionism and social realism and will resituate this underexposed artist within a broader, art historical context. The exhibition will be presented in the sky-lit eighth floor galleries of the new Whitney during its inaugural year.

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is organized by the Nasher Museum at Duke University and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell. The installation at the Whitney Museum will be overseen by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.

FRANK STELLA  – OCT 30, 2015–FEB 7, 2016

Frank Stella, Gran Cairo, 1962. Synthetic polymer on canvas, 85 1/2 × 85 1/2 in. (217.2 × 217.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art  63.34. © 2010 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Frank Stella, Gran Cairo, 1962. Synthetic polymer on canvas, 85 1/2 × 85 1/2 in. (217.2 × 217.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 63.34. © 2010 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Museum will present a career retrospective of Frank Stella (b. 1936), one of the most important living American artists. This survey will be the most comprehensive presentation of Stella’s career to date, showcasing his prolific output from the mid-1950s to the present through approximately 120 works, including paintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawings. Co-organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Whitney, this exhibition will feature Stella’s best-known works alongside rarely seen examples drawn from collections around the world. Accompanied by a scholarly publication, the exhibition will fill the Whitney’s entire fifth floor, an 18,000-square-foot gallery that is the Museum’s largest space for temporary exhibitions.

This exhibition is curated by Michael Auping, Chief Curator, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with the involvement of Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art. Continue reading

THE WHITNEY’S INAUGURAL EXHIBITION IN ITS NEW BUILDING PRESENTS FRESH NARRATIVES OF AMERICAN ART

America Is Hard to See Features Work by 400 Artists and Fills Every Indoor and Outdoor Exhibition Space in the Whitney’s New Meatpacking District Location, Opening on May 1, 2015

View from the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Tim Schenck.

The Whitney Museum of American Art – view from the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Tim Schenck.

The Whitney Museum of American Art will open its new Renzo Piano–designed home at 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West Streets on May 1, 2015, with an ambitious exhibition that reexamines the history of American art from 1900 to today. America Is Hard to See presents new perspectives on the Whitney’s collection, reflecting on art in the United States with more than 600 works by some 400 artists. The exhibition—its title taken from a Robert Frost poem that was also used by the filmmaker Emile de Antonio for one of his political documentaries—is the most extensive display to date of the Whitney’s collection.

Robert Bechtle (b. 1932).  '61 Pontiac, 19681969.  Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 × 84 1/4in. (151.8 × 214 cm). 	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Richard and Dorothy Rodgers     Fund  70.16.  	© Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle (b. 1932). ’61 Pontiac, 19681969. Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 × 84 1/4in. (151.8 × 214 cm).
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Richard and Dorothy Rodgers
Fund 70.16. © Robert Bechtle

Running People at 2,616,216 (1978–79) by Jonathan Borofsky installed on the West Ambulatory, 5th floor, the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See (May 1–September 27, 2015). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photograph © Nic Lehoux

Running People at 2,616,216 (1978–79) by Jonathan Borofsky installed on the West Ambulatory, 5th floor, the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See (May 1–September 27, 2015). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photograph © Nic Lehoux

Drawn from the Whitney’s holdings, America Is Hard to See examines the themes, ideas, beliefs, visions, and passions that have preoccupied and galvanized American artists over the past one hundred and fifteen years. The exhibition’s narrative is propelled by a dynamic sense of invention and conflict, as artists struggled to work within and against established conventions and often directly engaged their political and social contexts. Works of art across all mediums will be displayed together, acknowledging the ways in which artists have engaged various modes of production and broken the boundaries between them. Numerous pieces that have rarely, if ever, been shown will appear alongside familiar icons, in a conscious effort to challenge assumptions about the American art canon.

Georgia O'Keeffe, 18871986 Music, Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918 	Oil on canvas, 35 x 29 15/16in. (88.9 x 76 cm) 	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Emily Fisher Landau        in honor of Tom Armstrong  91.90       ©2014 Georgia O’Keeffe  Museum / Artists Rights Society ( ARS), New York

Georgia O’Keeffe, 18871986
Music, Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918
Oil on canvas, 35 x 29 15/16in. (88.9 x 76 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Emily Fisher Landau
in honor of Tom Armstrong 91.90
©2014 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society ( ARS), New York

America Is Hard to See is organized by a team of Whitney curators led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, which includes Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing; Dana Miller, Curator of the Permanent Collection; and Scott Rothkopf, Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs; with Jane Panetta, Assistant Curator; Catherine Taft, Assistant Curator; and Mia Curran, Curatorial Assistant.

 Robert Henri, 18651929 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, (1916) 	Oil on canvas, Overall: 49 15/16 x 72in. (126.8 x 182.9 cm) 	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 	Gift of Flora Whitney Miller  86.70.3

Robert Henri, 18651929
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, (1916)
Oil on canvas, Overall: 49 15/16 x 72in. (126.8 x 182.9 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
Gift of Flora Whitney Miller 86.70.3

Eva Hesse (19361970).  No title, (19691970).  	Latex, rope, string, and wire, Dimensions variable 	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the      Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund, and the 	Painting and Sculpture Committee  88.17ab     © Estate of Eva Hesse; courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Eva Hesse (19361970). No title, (19691970). Latex, rope, string, and wire, Dimensions variable
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the
Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund, and the Painting and Sculpture Committee 88.17ab
© Estate of Eva Hesse; courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, commented: “The DNA of the Whitney Museum—and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s vision to champion the art and artists of the United States—is encoded in its collection. Accordingly, to display a larger portion of our unparalleled holdings of American art was a key impetus for the new building. The opening exhibition offers an unprecedented occasion to display one hundred and fifteen years of American art, throughout the new Whitney. This will be the first of many opportunities to show the complexities, subtleties, and glories of the art of our country in a new light and to share aspects of the breadth and depth of our collection in all mediums.”

Edward Hopper, 18821967 Early Sunday Morning, (1930) 	Oil on canvas, 35 3/16 x 60in. (89.4 x 152.4 cm) 	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from       Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  31.426       © Whitney Museum of American Art

Edward Hopper, 18821967
Early Sunday Morning, (1930)
Oil on canvas, 35 3/16 x 60in. (89.4 x 152.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.426
© Whitney Museum of American Art

Miss De Salvo noted: “The title America Is Hard to See points to the impossibility of offering a tidy picture of this country, its culture and, by extension, its art. The exhibition takes up this challenge through the lens of the Whitney’s collection, re-examining well-known art historical tropes, proposing new narratives, and even expanding the definition of who counts as an American artist. We did not conceive of this exhibition as a comprehensive survey, but rather as a sequence of provocative thematic chapters that taken together reflect on American art history from the vantage point of today.”

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954).  Untitled Film Still #45, 1979. Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 8 × 10in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm) 		Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner      P.2011.357  © Cindy Sherman; courtesy artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954). Untitled Film Still #45, 1979. Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 8 × 10in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner
P.2011.357 © Cindy Sherman; courtesy artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

Edward Ruscha (b. 1937).  Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights, 1962.  	Oil, house paint, ink, and      graphite pencil on canvas, Overall: 66 15/16 × 133 1/8in. (170 × 338.1 cm).  	Whitney Museum of American Art,     New York; purchase, with funds from the Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund  85.41  © Ed Ruscha

Edward Ruscha (b. 1937). Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights, 1962. Oil, house paint, ink, and
graphite pencil on canvas, Overall: 66 15/16 × 133 1/8in. (170 × 338.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art,
New York; purchase, with funds from the Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund 85.41 © Ed Ruscha

R. H. Quaytman (b. 1961).  Distracting Distance, Chapter 16, 2010.  	Screenprint and gesso on wood,      24 5/8 × 39 7/8in. (62.5 × 101.3 cm).  	Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds      from the Painting and Sculpture Committee  2010.54.  © R. H. Quaytman

R. H. Quaytman (b. 1961). Distracting Distance, Chapter 16, 2010. Screenprint and gesso on wood,
24 5/8 × 39 7/8in. (62.5 × 101.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds
from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2010.54. © R. H. Quaytman

Installed throughout the building, America Is Hard to See is organized as a series of twenty-three “chapters”—sections that build on a particular theme through related artworks. Each chapter is named after a work of art that appears in that section of the show. The exhibition unfolds chronologically, beginning with a display relating to the Whitney’s origins on Eighth Street, on view in the first-floor gallery (a space which is open to the public free of charge), and proceeding with works from the first decades of the twentieth century on the Museum’s top gallery floor on Eight. The exhibition continues on Floors Seven and Six with work from the mid-twentieth century, and concludes on Five, where works from the late 1960s to the present will be displayed in the Museum’s largest space, an 18,000-square-foot column-free gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows and striking views to the east and west. The show will also occupy the Museum’s terraces, which provide nearly 13,000 square feet of additional exhibition space. The majority of the exhibition will be on view through September 27, 2015, with some floors closing on a staggered schedule before and after that date. Continue reading