Salman Toor: How Will I Know Opens At The Whitney On March 20, 2020

Salman Toor’s first solo museum exhibition will be presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art from March 20 to July 5, 2020. Primarily making intimate oil-on-panel works, Toor expands the tradition of figurative painting by melding sketch-like immediacy with disarming detail to create affecting views of young, queer Brown men living between New York City and South Asia. Salman Toor: How Will I Know is part of the Whitney’s emerging artists program, which most recently included solo shows by Kevin Beasley and Eckhaus Latta, and will be on view in the first-floor John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gallery, which is accessible to the public free-of-charge. This exhibition is organized by Christopher Y. Lew, Nancy and Fred Poses Curator, and Ambika Trasi, curatorial assistant.

Over the past few years the field of figurative painting has been reimagined once again, this time by artists frankly depicting lives and cultures that were all too often overlooked,” said Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “Salman Toor is one of the most exciting of these young talents, conjuring beautiful stories across his canvases with a sensitive and elegant touch.”

Salman Toor, Four Friends, 2019. Oil on panel, 40 × 40 in. (101.6 × 101.6 cm). Collection of Christie Zhou; image courtesy the artist.

Considering the figures he paints to be imaginary versions of himself and his friends, Toor portrays his subjects with empathy to counter the judgments he feels are often imposed on them by the outside world. Allusions to art history—notably classical European and modern Indian painting—feature throughout the artist’s work, endowing his narratives, which are drawn from experience, with elements of fantasy. Recurring color palettes, notably muted greens used to evoke a nocturnal atmosphere, heighten the emotion and drama of Toor’s compositions. In these dreamy vignettes, characters dance in cramped apartments, binge-watch period dramas, play with puppies, and style their friends’ hair. Meanwhile, another group of works, more somber in tone, highlights moments of nostalgia and alienation. One painting depicts a morose family dinner; in a series of works, forlorn men stand with their personal belongings on display for the scrutiny of immigration officers. Rich in personal detail and situated within a queer diasporic community, Toor’s paintings evocatively consider how vulnerability appears in public and private life.

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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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Tiona Nekkia Mcclodden Receives The Whitney’s 2019 Bucksbaum Award

Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, announced that Tiona Nekkia McClodden is the recipient of the 2019 Bucksbaum Award. McClodden was chosen from among the seventy-five artists whose works are being presented in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, currently on view at the Museum through September 22. In her interdisciplinary practice, McClodden utilizes documentary film, experimental video, sculpture, and sound installation to explore the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.

Image credit: Tiona Nekkia McClodden (1981-), I prayed to the wrong god for you., 2019. Multichannel video installation, color, sound; and six handcarved tools in vitrine. Image courtesy the artist and Company Gallery, New York

Weinberg commented, “McClodden’s work is bold and original and her contribution to the Biennial is extraordinarily rich with cultural, historical, and spiritual resonances. I’m delighted that she is receiving the Bucksbaum Award, which was initiated by our longtime trustee Melva Bucksbaum and her family to encourage living artists and to highlight American artists of particular promise.”

Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, who served on the jury, commented, “Beyond the strength of McClodden’s contribution to the Biennial, the jury was moved by the innovative scope of her broader artistic project. As a writer, curator, event organizer, and speaker, she has generously shone a light on under-recognized histories and championed members of her community in a way that expands how we think about the work of an artist today.”

In addition to Rothkopf, this year’s seven-member Bucksbaum jury was comprised of three other jurors from within the Museum: David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives; Jane Panetta, Co-Curator of the 2019 Whitney Biennial and Director of the Collection; and Rujeko Hockley, Co-Curator of the 2019 Whitney Biennial and Assistant Curator; as well as three jurors from outside of the Museum: Ryan N. Dennis, Curator and Art Programs Director, Project Row Houses (Houston, TX); René Morales, Curator, Pérez Art Museum (Miami, FL); and Lumi Tan, Curator, The Kitchen (New York, NY).

Melva Bucksbaum (1933–2015), a patron of the arts, collector, and Whitney trustee from 1996 until her death, launched the Bucksbaum Award in 2000. Her daughter, Mary E. Bucksbaum Scanlan, now herself a member of the Whitney’s Board, remarked: “The Bucksbaum Award recognizes artists whose works are inventive, urgent, and promise to be enduring. I am proud to continue this tradition, which was so important to my mother, and I am thrilled that Tiona Nekkia McClodden is joining the illustrious group of artists whom we have honored.”

McClodden, who lives and works in Philadelphia, combines video and sculptural elements in her 2019 Biennial work, I prayed to the wrong god for you, which merges the spiritual and the artistic to confront the relationship between Christianity and colonialism. The multichannel video installation includes three projection screens and three monitors, as well as vitrines with talismanic objects that are seen in the videos. The work depicts a highly personal ritual dedicated to Shango, a deity within the Afro-Cuban religion Santería/Lucumí, whose origins can be traced to the Yoruba people of Nigeria. To begin the project, McClodden cut down a cedar fir tree and carved six tools from the wood of the tree. Traveling with these wooden objects across the United States, Cuba, and Nigeria, the artist engaged in ritual with Shango. The videos, which chart the labor and time of this undertaking, offer an account of diasporic devotion and the significance of objects as storytellers.

McClodden was born in 1981 in Blytheville, AR. She has exhibited and screened work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Art Toronto’s VERGE Video program; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; MoMA PS1; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka and Kyoto, Japan; and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, among others. She has been awarded the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts, the 2018–19 Keith Haring Fellow in Art and Activism at Bard College, and the 2017 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.

The Bucksbaum Award is given in each Biennial year in recognition of an artist, chosen from those included in the Biennial, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent and imagination. The selected artist is considered by the jurors to have the potential to make a lasting impact on the history of American art, based on the excellence of their past work, as well as of their present work in the Biennial. The award is accompanied by a check for $100,000. McClodden is the tenth Bucksbaum laureate to be named since the Award was introduced.

The nine previous Bucksbaum recipients are Paul Pfeiffer (2000), Irit Batsry (2002), Raymond Pettibon (2004), Mark Bradford (2006), Omer Fast (2008), Michael Asher (2010), Sarah Michelson (2012), Zoe Leonard (2014), and Pope.L (2017).

McClodden will participate in a public program at the Museum that will take place in the coming months. Further details will be forthcoming.

Funding for the Bucksbaum Award is provided by an endowment from the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation.

Alan Michelson: Wolf Nation To Open At The Whitney Museum of American Art On October 25

Alan Michelson: Wolf Nation presents four works in video, sound, print, and augmented reality that invoke place from an Indigenous perspective. The artist—who is Kanyen’keha:ka (Mohawk), a member of one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy—traverses local landscapes and temporalities in his art, treating geographical sites as archives and exploring territory typically bypassed in American history and largely absent from American memory. Wolf Nation, organized by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, with Clémence White, curatorial assistant, will be on view in the Museum’s fifth floor Kaufman and Goergen Galleries and in the lobby from October 25, 2019 through January 12, 2020.

Alan Michelson with Steven Fragale, Town Destroyer, 2019

Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, remarked, “Alan Michelson’s influential practice has critically and poetically foregrounded Indigenous perspectives to reorient how all of us can see history and place. The Whitney is thrilled to present this beautiful and haunting show, and we remain committed to expanding our work with Indigenous artists in both our collection and exhibition and public programs.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is Wolf Nation (2018), an immersive video installation recently acquired for the Whitney’s permanent collection. Originally commissioned by Storm King Art Center, Wolf Nation transforms webcam footage of red wolves, a critically endangered indigenous species, into a poignant meditation on displacement. The work links their possible eradication with that of their namesake, the Wolf Tribe of the Lenape, also known as the Munsees, whose homelands encompassed present southern New York and northern New Jersey. Michelson translates the format and color of wampum belts—horizontal purple and white beadwork sashes used in Indigenous diplomacy whose symbolic designs encoded solemn messages—into panoramic video and sound. Wolf Nation is both an evocative affirmation of solidarity across species and a stark appeal to the forces responsible for their persecution.

Michelson commented, “American landscape is complicated when you’re Indigenous. For example, this year is the 240th anniversary of the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition, George Washington’s brutal invasion and destruction of Iroquoia, the Haudenosaunee homelands which now comprise most of New York state. Sixty of our towns, and hundreds of our houses, farms, crops, orchards, and livestock were burned and pillaged in a scorched-earth campaign that forced our people from their lands as homeless refugees. This is only one of the tragic but unacknowledged legacies that underpin our contemporary landscape. That history needs to be confronted.”

Also included in the exhibition is Shattemuc (2009), a video installation made for the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial, which retraces part of Hudson’s historic voyage on the river once known as “Shattemuc” to the region’s Indigenous inhabitants. Captured at night in the searchlight beam of a moving boat, the illuminated shoreline progresses from wooded palisade to industrial quarry, riverside town, power plant, and marina, encapsulating the development that followed upon Hudson’s journey. In Shattemuc, as throughout his oeuvre, Michelson appropriates and redirects colonial technologies of mapping and surveillance as well as landscape painting, the moving panorama of the nineteenth century, and other forms.

The soundtracks for Wolf Nation and Shattemuc are composed by White Mountain Apache composer and musician Laura Ortman, whose work was included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

Premiering are two new augmented reality works that Michelson produced with artist Steven Fragale, accessed through an interactive app that visitors are invited to download on their devices. Town Destroyer (2019) is an eighteen-foot-long wallpaper mural based on the interior of the mansion at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate in Virginia, and executed in the style of scenic wallpapers of the period. Inserted into the scene is a bust of Washington that, when viewed through the app, becomes three-dimensional on the screen. Moving images on the virtual bust’s surface and spatial audio tell the story of the brutal Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779, the Washington-ordered invasion and destruction of Iroquoia, the Haudenosaunee homelands that now constitute the bulk of present New York state.

Sapponckanikan (Tobacco Field), 2019, created for the Museum’s lobby, responds to the history of the Whitney’s neighborhood, formerly a Lenape village and tobacco field of the same name. When activated by the visitor through an app downloaded to their phone, a large circle of tobacco plants of the variety used ceremonially across Turtle Island (North America) will appear on the phone screen. Rustling gently in a virtual wind, the plants, based on those in the artist’s sister’s garden at Six Nations Reserve, create a duality of time and place and speak to Indigenous survivance—active presence and resistance—over four difficult centuries.

Alan Michelson (Mohawk, b. 1953) is an internationally recognized New York-based artist, curator, writer, lecturer, and member of one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. For over thirty years, working across a diverse range of media and combining meticulous research with a site-based practice grounded in local context, he has critically and poetically uncovered troubling colonial legacies and challenged national myths.

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Michelson’s four-channel video installation, was recently featured in the 2019 Venice Biennale, and has also been shown in the eighteenth Sydney Biennale and the fifth Moscow Biennale. His work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney, National Gallery of Canada, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. His practice includes public art, and Mantle (2018), his permanent public monument honoring Virginia’s Indian nations installed at the capitol in Richmond, Virginia, was recognized in the prestigious 2019 Public Art Network Year in Review. The feature article “In the Studio: Alan Michelson” appeared in the December 2018 issue of Art in America. Michelson is co-founder and co-curator, in conjunction with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, of the groundbreaking Indigenous New York series.

Iles noted, “For Alan Michelson, the moving image operates as a form of witnessing. Wolf Nation resurfaces invisible histories of place—the forest, the river, the field, and the land—and translates them into visual imagery that asserts the Indigenous voice. Distilled from diverse sources, each work is horizontal or circular in form, echoing Indigenous concepts of time and space—multi-perspectival and cyclical, rather than monocular and linear. By creating works that evoke place and historical memory, Michelson allows his viewers to see Indigeneity—and Native cultures—as visceral, and lived.”