“Pure Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection” at the Art Institute of Chicago

Highlighting one of the most important gifts in the history of the Prints and Drawings department at the Art Institue of Chicago, Pure Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection brings together more than 100 works from celebrated art dealer Richard Gray and art historian Mary L. Gray. Assembled over nearly 50 years, the Gray Collection encapsulates a long and distinguished history of artmaking dedicated to the medium of drawing. From January 25 to May 10, 2020, Pure Drawing documents that endeavor, showcasing one of the most immediate, exploratory, and intimate of art forms.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The Head of a Young Man in Profile to the Left, 1749-50. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray.

Showcasing one of the finest private collections of its kind, Pure Drawing traverses 700 years of artists’ myriad attempts to understand, reflect, and interpret the world through drawing.

Prominent Chicago gallery owner Richard Gray and his wife Mary L. Gray were longtime benefactors and supporters of the city’s cultural institutions. Motivated by their deep sense of civic responsibility and longstanding relationship with the Art Institute of Chicago, they have given 91 works from the collection to the museum. The exhibition Pure Drawing celebrates their extraordinary legacy. With a deep and sustained interest in the variety of ways artists put pen or pencil to paper, the Grays built a collection that is exceptional in both quality and breadth. Focused on key periods and places—fifteenth to eighteenth-century Italy; seventeenth to twentieth-century France; seventeenth-century Holland; and twentieth and twenty-first century America—they sought out works defined by excellence and boldness of execution. The most celebrated names appear throughout: Peter Paul Rubens, François Boucher, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Canaletto, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock.

The Art Institute of Chicago logo

Extending from Renaissance drawings to works of art brut and beyond, Pure Drawing encompasses the richness of drawing techniques and media in the Western tradition, from black and red chalk, graphite, conté crayon, wash, and pastels to charcoal, watercolor, collage, and pen and ink. Although landscapes, still lifes, and the occasional abstraction are to be found in their collection, the Grays gave prominence to one of the great subjects in Western art: the human figure. A few examples give a sense of the scope of the exhibition. Tiepolo’s masterly red-and-white chalk drawing on Venetian blue laid paper, The Head of a Young Man in Profile to the Left (1749/50), conveys an immediacy of expression and empathetic rapport that suggest drawing from life. Jacques-Louis David’s Nude Soldiers Gesticulating with Their Weapons (1796/97) is a powerfully executed preparatory work for his iconic painting The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799). Edgar Degas’s Study for a Portrait of Monsieur and Madame Louis Rouart (1904) evidences the artist’s relentless experimentation with the medium of pastel. Picasso’s Man with a Clarinet (1911) represents the consummation of Analytical Cubism, pulling apart and reassembling the figure in order to capture its totality.

Richard and Mary’s unerring eye for drawings of extraordinary quality was legendary, and they demonstrated over and over again a level of collecting sophistication rarely matched,” said Kevin Salatino, Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searle Chair and Curator of Prints and Drawings, and co-curator of the exhibition. “The importance of their gift to the Art Institute cannot be exaggerated, and reflects their abiding love for the museum and the city of Chicago—and for the medium of drawing,” Salatino added.

The Whitney Announces 2020 Exhibition Schedule

It looks as if it will be another banner year of thought-provoking and wide-ranging exhibitions during the coming year at The Whitney Museum of American Art. (And one should not expect any less.) Announcing the schedule for 2020 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, noted: “In 2020 the Whitney will celebrate its ninetieth anniversary and fifth year downtown, so we’ve created a program that truly honors the spirit of artistic innovation both past and present. We remain focused on supporting emerging and mid-career artists, while finding fresh relevance in historical surveys from across the twentieth century. Also turning ninety, Jasper Johns closes out the year with an unprecedented retrospective that will reveal this American legend as never before to a new generation of audiences.”

Exterior shot of the The Whitney building. Photograph by Ben Gancsos ©2016

On February 17 the Museum opens Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945, a major historical look at the transformative impact of Mexican artists on the direction of American art from the mid-1920s until the end of World War II. On October 28, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a landmark retrospective of the work of Jasper Johns goes on view simultaneously at both museums, paying tribute to the foremost living American artist. In addition, the Whitney will devote exhibitions to Julie Mehretu and Dawoud Bey, prominent midcareer artists. The Mehretu exhibition, co-organized by the Whitney with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, encompasses over two decades of the artist’s work, presenting the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. In November, Dawoud Bey, one of the leading photographers of his generation, will receive his first full-scale retrospective, co-organized by the Whitney and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

The Whitney Museum of American Art

The Museum will also present Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist—organized by the Phoenix Art Museum—the first exhibition of work by the visionary symbolist in nearly a quarter century; and Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, an unprecedented exhibition organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which chronicles the formative years of this collective of Black photographers who lived and worked in New York City. The year will also bring a range of focused exhibitions dedicated to emerging and midcareer artists, including Darren Bader, Jill Mulleady, Cauleen Smith, and Salman Toor, as well as Dave McKenzie and My Barbarian, who continue the Whitney’s commitment to performance and its many forms.

In September the Museum will also unveil David Hammons’s monumental public art installation Day’s End on Gansevoort Peninsula, across the street from the Whitney. The debut of this public artwork will be preceded by an exhibition entitled Around Day’s End: Downtown New York, 1970–1986, which will present a selection of works from the Museum’s collection related to the seminal work that inspired Hammons’s sculpture: Gordon Matta-Clark’s Day’s End (1975).

MAJOR EXHIBITIONS AND EVENTS

Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945”, February 17–May 17, 2020

Jacob Lawrence. Panel 3 from The Migration Series, From every Southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.,1940–41. Casein tempera on hardboard 12 × 18 in. (30.5 × 45.7 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; acquired 1942. © 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The cultural renaissance that emerged in Mexico in 1920 at the end of that country’s revolution dramatically changed art not just in Mexico but also in the United States. With approximately 200 works by sixty American and Mexican artists, Vida Americana reorients art history, acknowledging the wide-ranging and profound influence of Mexico’s three leading muralists—José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera—on the style, subject matter, and ideology of art in the United States made between 1925 and 1945. By presenting the art of the Mexican muralists alongside that of their American contemporaries, the exhibition reveals the seismic impact of Mexican art, particularly on those looking for inspiration and models beyond European modernism and the School of Paris.

Diego Rivera. The Uprising, 1931. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 74 × 94 1/8 in. (188 × 239 cm). Collection of Marcos and Vicky Micha Levy © 2019 Banco de México–Rivera–Kahlo/ARS. Reproduction authorized by the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature (INBAL), 2019

Works by both well-known and underrecognized American artists will be exhibited, including Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Eitarō Ishigaki, Jacob Lawrence, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Thelma Johnson Streat, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff. In addition to Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, other key Mexican artists in the exhibition include Miguel Covarrubias, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, and Rufino Tamayo.

María Izquierdo. My Nieces, 1940. Oil on composition board, 55 1/8 × 39 3/8 in. (140 × 100 cm). Museo Nacional de Arte, INBAL, Mexico City; constitutive collection, 1982 © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City. Reproduction authorized by El Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, 2019.

Organized by Barbara Haskell, curator, with Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator; Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant; and Alana Hernandez, former curatorial project assistant. (See previously-posted article here.)

Julie Mehretu, June 26–September 20, 2020

Julie Mehretu, Invisible Sun (algorithm 4, first letter form), 2014, ink and acrylic on canvas 119 1⁄2 × 167 in., private collection, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Carolina Merlano
Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 192 in. (304.8 x 487.7 cm). François Pinault Collection, Paris | Photo credit: Tim Thayer

This mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu (b. 1970; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), co-organized by The Whitney with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), covers over two decades of the artist’s career and presents the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. Featuring approximately forty works on paper and more than thirty paintings dating from 1996 to today, the exhibition includes works ranging from her early focus on drawing and mapping to her more recent introduction of bold gestures, saturated color, and figuration. The exhibition will showcase her commitment to interrogating the histories of art, architecture, and past civilizations alongside themes of migration, revolution, climate change, and global capitalism in the contemporary moment. Julie Mehretu is on view at LACMA November 3, 2019–March 22, 2020, and following its presentation at the Whitney from June 26 through September 20, 2020, the exhibition will travel to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (October 24, 2020–January 31, 2021); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (March 13–July 11, 2021).

Julie Mehretu, Hineni (E. 3:4), 2018, ink and acrylic on canvas, 96 × 120 in., Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle; gift of George Economou, 2019, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging
Julie Mehretu, Stadia II, 2004, ink and acrylic on canvas, 108 × 144 in., Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, gift of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Nicolas Rohatyn and A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund 2004.50, © Julie Mehretu, photograph courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art

Julie Mehretu is curated by Christine Y. Kim, associate curator in contemporary art at LACMA, and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator at the Whitney.

Jasper Johns, Opens October 28, 2020

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas, 30 5/8 × 45 1/2 × 4 5/8 in. (77.8 × 115.6 × 11.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Gilman Foundation, Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura-Lee Whittier Woods, Howard Lipman, and Ed Downe in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary 80.32. Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Jasper Johns (b. 1930) is arguably the most influential living American artist. Over the past sixty-five years, he has produced a radical and varied body of work marked by constant reinvention. In an unprecedented collaboration, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney will stage a retrospective of Johns’s career simultaneously across the two museums, featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints, many shown publicly for the first time. Inspired by the artist’s long-standing fascination with mirroring and doubles, the two halves of the exhibition will act as reflections of one another, spotlighting themes, methods, and images that echo across the two venues. A visit to one museum or the other will provide a vivid chronological survey; a visit to both will offer an innovative and immersive exploration of the many phases, facets, and masterworks of Johns’s still-evolving career.

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Upcoming Exhibition Brings Together 200 Works By 60 American And Mexican Artists At The Whitney Museum In February 2020

The cultural renaissance that emerged in Mexico in 1920 at the end of that country’s revolution dramatically changed art not just in Mexico but also in the United States. Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 will explore the profound influence Mexican artists had on the direction American art would take. With approximately 200 works by sixty American and Mexican artists, Vida Americana reorients art history, acknowledging the wide-ranging and profound influence of Mexico’s three leading muralists—José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—on the style, subject matter, and ideology of art in the United States made between 1925 and 1945.

The Whitney Museum’s own connection to the Mexican muralists dates back to 1924 when the Museum’s founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney presented an exhibition of the work of three Mexican artists—José Clemente Orozco, Luis Hidalgo, and Miguel Covarrubias—at the Whitney Studio Club, organized by artist Alexander Brook. It was Orozco’s first exhibition in the United States. A few years later, in 1926, Orozco also showed watercolors from his House of Tears series at the Studio Club; and the following year Juliana Force, Mrs. Whitney’s executive assistant and future director of the Whitney Museum, provided critical support for Orozco at a time when he desperately needed it by acquiring ten of his drawings. The Mexican muralists had a profound influence on many artists who were mainstays of the Studio Club, and eventually the Whitney Museum, including several American artists featured in Vida Americana, such as Thomas Hart Benton, William Gropper, Isamu Noguchi, and Ben Shahn.

Diego Rivera. The Uprising, 1931. Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 74 × 94 1/8 in. (188 × 239 cm). Collection of Marcos and Vicky Micha Levy © 2019 Banco de México–Rivera–Kahlo/ARS. Reproduction authorized by El Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, 2019.

Curated by Barbara Haskell, with Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator; Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant; and Alana Hernandez, former curatorial project assistant, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art from February 17 through May 17, 2020 and will travel to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, where it will be on display from June 25 through October 4, 2020. At the McNay Art Museum, the installation will be overseen by René Paul Barrilleaux.

Jacob Lawrence. Panel 3 from The Migration Series, From every Southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.,1940–41. Casein tempera on hardboard 12 × 18 in. (30.5 × 45.7 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; acquired 1942. © 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Vida Americana is an enormously important undertaking for the Whitney and could not be more timely given its entwined aesthetic and political concerns,” said Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “It not only represents the culmination of nearly a decade of scholarly research and generous international collaboration but also demonstrates our commitment to presenting a more comprehensive and inclusive view of twentieth-century and contemporary art in the United States.”

María Izquierdo. My Nieces, 1940. Oil on composition board, 55 1/8 × 39 3/8 in. (140 × 100 cm). Museo Nacional de Arte, INBAL, Mexico City; constitutive collection, 1982 © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City. Reproduction authorized by El Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, 2019.

Comprised of paintings, portable frescoes, films, sculptures, prints, photographs, and drawings, as well as reproductions of in-situ murals, Vida Americana will be divided into nine thematic sections and will occupy the entirety of the Whitney’s fifth-floor Neil Bluhm Family Galleries. This unprecedented installation, and the catalogue that accompanies it, will provide the first opportunity to reconsider this cultural history, revealing the immense influence of Mexican artists on their American counterparts between 1925 and 1945.

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This Just In!: David Breslin And Adrienne Edwards Will Curate The 2021 Whitney Biennial

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.

Image credit: Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin. Photograph by Bryan Derballa

Alice 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 times.”

With 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.

David 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.

Breslin 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 English.

In 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.

At 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.

For 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 Award and 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.

Scott 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.”