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.”
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.
Mutualities, the multidisciplinary artist Cauleen Smith’s first solo show in New York, will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art on February 17. The exhibition includes two films, Sojourner (2018) and Pilgrim (2017), shown in two installation environments newly created for the Whitney, along with a group of new drawings, collectively titled Firespitters (2020).
Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, remarked, “We’re delighted to welcome Cauleen Smith back to the Whitney. With their exquisite atmosphere and construction, Sojourner and Pilgrim offer lyrical views of important figures and sites in Black history, and also look toward a shared future. The show builds a beautiful bridge between the other pillars of our spring exhibition program, pointing to the political concerns of Vida Americana and the spiritual uplift of Agnes Pelton.”
Smith (b. 1967)—whose banners were prominently featured at the Museum in the 2017 Whitney Biennial—draws on poetry, science fiction, non-Western cosmologies, and experimental film to create works that reflect on memory and Afro-diasporic histories.
Cauleen Smith is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work draws upon Black radical thought, structural film, poetry, and science fiction. Born in Riverside, California in 1967, she grew up in Sacramento, and earned a B.A. in Cinema from San Francisco State University and an MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater Film and Television. At UCLA, she studied with the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers, a group of graduate students who started a Black Cinema movement at the university in the mid-1960s. She has made over 40 films, and her first feature length film, Drylongso (1998), premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival before circulating with acclaim to other film festivals. She has had exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, ICA Philadelphia, MASS MoCA, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the New Museum, New York, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and the Kitchen, New York, and was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. She is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2007), the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, Artist Award (2012), the Washington Park Arts Incubator, Arts and Public Life Residency (2013), and the Rauschenberg Residency (2015). She has taught at various universities over the span of the last two decades, and is a Faculty member of Cal Arts School of Art in Los Angeles.
Chrissie Iles, the Whitney’s Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, who has organized the show with Clémence White, senior curatorial assistant, commented, “We are proud to bring together Cauleen Smith’s films, installations, and drawings in an exhibition that articulates an ethics of care, engagement, and generosity. Each element of the show is experienced through another—books written and chosen by poets invited by the artist appear in delicate gouaches; a film tracing a pilgrimage to spiritual sites is bathed in the colored light of the installation surrounding it. The Museum’s recognition of Smith’s long and deeply engaged practice is underlined by our recent acquisition of both films, Sojourner and Pilgrim, which join her banners already in the Whitney’s collection.”
Unfolding across several important sites in Black spiritual and cultural history, the two films in the exhibition weave together writings by women from different eras, including Shaker visionary Rebecca Cox Jackson, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the Black feminist Combahee River Collective of the 1970s, and experimental-jazz composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane, whose music also forms the soundtrack for both films. This gathering of voices enacts a shared Black female subjectivity, the collective strength of which is expressed in Smith’s poetic use of the camera and light as improvisational instruments to reveal how invention, creativity, and generosity can be resources for transformation and regeneration. By placing the title of this exhibition in the plural, Smith draws a connection between the two films while pointing to the idea that what is held in common is never singular.
In Sojourner, a group of women walk in procession through sites including Dockweiler State Beach and Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The women carry translucent orange banners, each emblazoned with part of a text by the jazz composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane (1937–2007). Watts Towers, a cluster of seventeen sculptural spires, served as a symbol of hope and regeneration after surviving the 1965 Watts Rebellion unscathed. Smith locates a similar spirit in assemblage artist Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum in Joshua Tree, California. The women end their procession there, listening to readings of the Black feminist Combahee River Collective, Sojourner Truth (1797–1833), and Alice Coltrane. Their collective voices, echoed in contemporary footage of the Chicago-based activist coalition R3 (Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild.), fuse spirituality and activism into a potent articulation of self-realization and resistance. The actions unfold not only within different sites within the film itself, but in an immersive kaleidoscopic environment of light and seating in the Museum that interconnects the film with a more expansive sense of place and collective presence.
Pilgrim traces the artist’s pilgrimage to three sites: Alice Coltrane’s Turiyasangitananda Vedantic Center in Agoura, California; Watts Towers in Los Angeles; and the Black spiritual activist Rebecca Cox Jackson’s (1795–1871) Watervliet Shaker community in upstate New York. Smith vividly evokes the creative atmosphere of each place, allowing the camera to slowly explore the ashram’s interior and Coltrane’s musical instruments, and using the soft grain and subtle color of Super 8 film to infuse the footage of Watts Towers and the flowers in the Shaker garden with an emotional intimacy. Jackson’s advocacy of racial and gender equality, her fight against the patriarchy of organized religion, and her awareness of the African roots of her faith resonate with Coltrane’s own hybrid, transnational spiritual and musical language. Both women’s challenges to accepted authority are, like the enduring independent spirit of Watts Towers, grounded in a sense of place, community, and generosity that are also hallmarks of Smith’s own transformative work.
The screenings of Smith’s films in High Line Art’s presentation of Signals from Here, organized by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator, will take place from dusk until the park closes, on the High Line at 14th Street. The program includes Three Songs About Liberation (2017), Crow Requiem (2015), Lessons in Semaphore (2015), H-E-L-L-O (2014), and Songs for Earth and Folk (2013).
Screening and Conversation with Cauleen Smith and Michael Gillespie Friday, March 27, 6:30 pm
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Whitney will present a rare screening of Passing Through (1977, 105 min) by LA Rebellion filmmaker Larry Clark, preceded by one of Cauleen Smith’s films. Following the screening, Smith will be in conversation with film scholar Michael Boyce Gillespie, Associate Professor of Film in the Department of Media and Communication Arts and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York, City University of New York.
Tickets required. ($10 adults; $8 members, students, seniors, and visitors with a disability).
Cauleen Smith: Mutualities is part of the Whitney’s emerging artists program, sponsored by Nordstrom. Generous support is provided by The Rosenkranz Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Artists Council.
With approximately 200 works by sixty U.S. and Mexican artists, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 will reveal the profound impact 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.
Organized by curator Barbara Haskell, with Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator; Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant; and Alana Hernandez, former curatorial project assistant, Vida Americana will be on view at the Whitney from February 17 through May 17. During a special event held today in the Museum’s lobby, Museum visitors were greeted with a surprise celebration at noon, complete with free ticket giveaways and an Instagram-worthy photo opportunity.
At the event, Haskell highlighted the murals and easel paintings that will be on loan from Mexico, Japan, Argentina, and the United Kingdom for the exhibition. These include works that are rarely exhibited in the United States, including Rivera’s 1932 studies for his destroyed and infamous Rockefeller Center mural, Man at the Crossroads, on loan from the Museo Anahuacalli in Mexico City; María Izquierdo’s My Nieces (1940) and Siqueiros’s Proletarian Mother (1929), on loan from the Museo Nacional de Arte; and two paintings by Japanese-born artist Eitarō Ishigaki, on loan from Japan’s Museum of Modern Art in Wakayama.
Guerrero then discussed the Museum’s ongoing initiative to improve access for Spanish-speaking visitors.
For Vida Americana, a number of resources will be available in both English and Spanish, including all exhibition texts, the mobile guide, exhibition tours, and a Family Guide that will feature texts and in-gallery activities. The guide is available free of charge to all families who visit the Whitney as well as to elementary school-aged students who visit the Museum. The Museum also announced programs being organized by its education department on the occasion of the exhibition, including a full-day symposium featuring artists, curators, educators, and scholars presenting new perspectives on the role of Mexican Muralism in the United States. Other programming highlights include Tours for Immigrant Families, Teen Night, and a Community Partnership Mural Project with The Door and artist Sophia Dawson. Additional details and the full lineup of programs can be viewed below.
By presenting the art of the Mexican muralists alongside that of their American contemporaries, Vida Americana reveals the influence of Mexican art, particularly on those looking for inspiration and models beyond European modernism and the School of Paris, during the interwar period. Works by both well-known and underrecognized American artists will be exhibited, including those by Thomas Hart Benton, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Marion Greenwood, William Gropper, Philip Guston, Eitarō Ishigaki, Jacob Lawrence, Harold Lehman, Fletcher Martin, Jackson Pollock, Ben Shahn, Thelma Johnson Streat, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff. In addition to Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, other key Mexican artists included in the exhibition include Miguel Covarrubias, María Izquierdo, Frida Kahlo, Mardonio Magaña, Alfredo Ramos Martínez, and Rufino Tamayo. Tickets for Vida Americana are now available at whitney.org.
COMMUNITY AND ACCESS PROGRAMS
Tours for Immigrant Families, Feb 1, March 7, April 4, May 2, 2020
Bring your family to the Museum for a free tour and fun activities! We welcome immigrant families who speak any language and level of English. Spanish-speaking staff will be on the tour and two-trip MetroCards will be provided.
Immigrant Justice Night, April 29, 2020, 6–8 pm
Jointly organized with community partners, the Whitney will host its third Immigrant Justice Night. Join the museum for an evening of resource-sharing and artmaking dedicated to immigrant and undocumented communities. Youth, families, teachers, and community members are invited to connect with NYC immigrant justice organizations, participate in a “know your rights” training and explore Vida Americana. Spanish and English language guided tours of the exhibition will be offered throughout the evening.
From January 15 to February 17, 2020, the Whitney’s eighth floor gallery will be the site of fruits, vegetables; fruit and vegetable salad. The exhibition is comprised of an untitled work by Darren Bader from the Whitney’s permanent collection—acquired in 2015 and never before presented at the Museum—featuring a selection of fruits and vegetables presented as sculptures on pedestals. Through this organizing principle, Bader calls attention to the formal properties of the objects’ colors, shapes, lines, and textures.
At scheduled times throughout the week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays from 3–6 pm, and Fridays from 7:30–10 pm—museum staff will remove the ripened fruits and vegetables from the pedestals. Rather than disposing of the produce, Bader has instructed that a fruit and vegetable salad should be created. While the gallery sits empty, the washing, slicing, dicing, and chopping of the produce in the Museum’s Studio Cafe kitchen will be captured on video and projected in the gallery for visitors to observe. The fruit and vegetable salad will then be served in the gallery and visitors will be invited to eat it. Museum staff will refresh the artwork with a new selection of produce, and the process will repeat.
Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, remarked, “Rigorous, funny, and strangely uncanny, Bader’s work tests not only what an artwork can be but also what a museum can collect and how we display it. We’re thrilled to show this recent acquisition for the first time, though we recognize it might not taste as good as it looks.“
In fruits, vegetables; fruit and vegetable salad, Bader creates a visual and participatory experience from everyday objects that continues the artist’s ongoing examination of readymade art, as well as his investigation of art as concept, language, and commodity.
“fruits, vegetables; fruit and vegetable salad is an opportunity to be nimble in showcasing a work from the Whitney’s collection, and to collaborate with an artist the Museum first showed in the 2014 Biennial. This work’s absurdist yet sincere premise is particularly apropos in our current climate, and I hope viewers will engage through close looking, questioning, and salad-consumption,” said Christie Mitchell, senior curatorial assistant.
Darren Bader (b. 1978, Bridgeport, CT) lives and works in New York. Solo shows of his work held in institutions include (@mined_oud), Madre, Naples, (2017-2018); Meaning and Difference, The Power Station, Dallas (2017); Reading Writing Arithmetic, Radio Athènes–Athens (2015); Where Is a Bicycle’s Vagina (and Other Inquiries) or Around the Samovar, 1857, Oslo (2012); Images, MoMA-PS1, New York (2012). Awarded the Calder Prize in 2013, Bader has taken part in numerous group exhibitions and biennials including the following: 13éme Biennale de Lyon. La vie moderne, Lyon (2015); Under the Clouds: From Paranoia to the Digital Sublime, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2015); 2014 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2014); Antigrazioso, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); Something About a Tree, FLAG Foundation, New York (2013); Empire State, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2013); Oh, you mean cellophane and all that crap, The Calder Foundation, New York (2012); Greater New York, MoMA-PS1, New York (2010); To Illustrate and Multiply: An Open Book, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2008).
This exhibition is organized by Christie Mitchell, senior curatorial assistant.
The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West Streets, New York City. Museum hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:30 am to 6 pm; Friday from 10:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Tuesday except in July and August. Adults: $25. Full-time students, visitors 65 & over, and visitors with disabilities: $18. Visitors 18 years & under and Whitney members: FREE. Admission is pay-what-you-wish on Fridays, 7–10 pm. For general information, please call (212) 570-3600 or visit whitney.org.
Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is the first solo exhibition devoted to Pelton (1881–1961), a pioneer of American abstraction, in twenty-five years. Consisting of forty-five luminous canvases made between 1917 and 1961, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to experience Pelton’s profoundly spiritual body of work and to confirm her place in art history. Organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, it opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art on March 13 and runs through June 21, 2020.
“In complicated and turbulent times like these, Pelton’s paintings touch us through their vivid color and dreamy intimacy,” said Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “As with our recent focused surveys of Archibald Motley and Grant Wood, this exhibition highlights our commitment to rethink and rediscover historical figures, thereby providing a more complex and inclusive view of American art.”
Whitney curator Barbara Haskell, who is overseeing the installation in New York with Sarah Humphreville, senior curatorial assistant, noted, “Agnes Pelton spent her career channeling her flashes of heightened spiritual consciousness into luminous visual images, creating what she called ‘windows of illumination’ opening onto a radiant spiritual world. Her work takes us on an inner journey.”
After originating at the Phoenix Art Museum, the exhibition was seen at the New Mexico Museum of Art, prior to coming to the Whitney. Following the New York presentation, it will travel to the Palm Springs Art Museum, August 1–November 29, 2020.
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
Rivera, and David Alfaro
Siqueiros—on the style, subject matter, and ideology of
art in the United States made between 1925 and 1945.
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
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.
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
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
Whitney Museum of American Art announced
that it has acquired more
than 250 works of art since
last April. Among these acquisitions are 88
40 artists who were featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial.
recent acquisitions include works by artists who are joining the
collection for the first time, including Laura Aguilar, John Ahearn,
Maria Berrio, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, ektor garcia, Ajay Kurian, Wendy
Red Star, Wallace & Donahue, and others.
Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family
Chief Curator commented: “Through the Biennial and our
emerging artist program, the Whitney is committed to adding new
voices to our collection, but we’re also deepening our
relationships with artists already represented in it, with
acquisitions of works by, among others, Alex Da Corte, Simone Leigh,
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Hank Willis Thomas. We are particularly
proud that our recent gifts and purchases highlight the museum’s
increased scholarship on and engagement with Latinx and Indigenous
are thrilled to be making many important acquisitions from the 2019
Whitney Biennial and to be continuing our long-standing tradition of
expanding the collection through this flagship exhibition,”
noted Jane Panetta, Curator and Director of the Collection, who was
also a co-curator of the 2019
we are very excited to be acquiring work that will be part of our
upcoming collection presentation, Making
Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019,
featuring important examples by Shan Goshorn, Jordan Nassar and
Elaine Reichek. In all instances, these new acquisitions point to the
Whitney’s deep commitment to continuing to build an ambitious and
inclusive collection and to the significant relationship between our
exhibition program and the work we acquire.”
highlights of works acquired from the Biennial include John
composed photographs which feature carefully choreographed subjects
and settings to create portraits such asTête
that challenge the art historical canon while simultaneously
interrogating and celebrating Black identity; Janiva
Oh, Look Who Got Wet(2019)
featuring a graphically rendered figure against the backdrop of a
monumental landscape executed in brilliant colors with vivid
attention to the materiality of paint; Kota
video animation National
that utilizes repurposed footage of multiple NFL teams as the basis
for small-scale watercolor paintings used to create this video
depicting NFL players taking a knee during “The
in protest of police violence against unarmed Black men; Daniel
an assembled sculpture made of found materials whose haloed form,
blue robes, and title suggest the Virgin Mary but also reference
Hurricane Maria, the devastating 2017 storm that struck Puerto Rico;
lush painting A
Lesson in Longing(2019)
featuring her signature, gestural figures and adept use of color; and
that tracks Sherrie Levine’s Newborn
over the course of a day through various collections in homes,
galleries, and museums.
Whitney’s collection includes nearly 25,000 works created by
approximately 3,500 artists during the twentieth and twenty-first
centuries. This focus on the contemporary, along with a deep respect
for artists’ creative process and vision, has guided the Museum’s
collecting ever since its founding in 1930. The collection begins
with Ashcan School painting and follows the major movements of
the twentieth century in America, with strengths in modernism
and Social Realism, Precisionism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop art,
Minimalism, Postminimalism, art centered on identity and
politics that came to the fore in the 1980s and 1990s, and
Whitney Museum of American Art is
located at 99
Streets, New York City.
Museum hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday
from 10:30 am to 6 pm; Friday from 10:30 am to 10 pm. Closed Tuesday
except in July and August. Adults: $25. Full-time students, visitors
65 & over, and visitors with disabilities: $18. Visitors 18 years
& under and Whitney members: FREE. Admission is pay-what-you-wish
on Fridays, 7–10 pm. For general information, please call (212)
570-3600 or visit whitney.org.