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.”

America Is Hard to See: Film & Video Screenings at The Whitney Museum of American Art

As part of the landmark exhibition America Is Hard to See, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents a screening series showcasing films and videos from the Museum’s collection by approximately fifty artists. Programs screen on select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the Susan and John Hess Family Theater on the Museum’s third floor. Special Saturday evening events feature expanded cinema performances and rare screenings of works on film.

SCREENING SCHEDULE

Nayland Blake (b. 1960), still from Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound, 30 min. looped. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Lin Lougheed  2014.268 © Nayland Blake 1994; image courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Nayland Blake (b. 1960), still from Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound, 30 min. looped. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Lin Lougheed 2014.268 © Nayland Blake 1994; image courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Normal Love
July 3, 11 am
August 22, 7 pm
September 6, 4 pm

In Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1962–63), David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly (1986–87), Nayland Blake’s Negative Bunny (1994), and Kenneth Anger’s Mouse Heaven (2005), intense desire is often expressed through indirect means, including role-playing and emulation or appropriation of popular culture.

Jack Smith  (b. 1932, Colombus, OH; d. 1989; New York, NY), Flaming Creatures, 1962–63. 16mm film, black‑and‑white, sound, 43 min. Gift of Gladstone Gallery, New York 2010.209

David Wojnarowicz (b. 1954, Red Bank, NJ; d. 1992, New York, NY), A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) and A Fire In My Belly (Excerpt), 1986–87. Super 8mm film transferred to video, black‑and‑white and color, silent, 13:06 min. and 7 min. Purchase with funds from the Director’s Discretionary Fund 2012.4

Nayland Blake (b. 1960, New York, NY), Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound; 30 min. Gift of Lin Lougheed 2014.268

Kenneth Anger (b. 1927, Santa Monica, CA), Mouse Heaven, 2005. Video, color, sound; 10 min. Gift of the artist 2006.226

Mike Kelley (1954-2012), still from Day Is Done, 2005-2006. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Randy Slifka  2009.128 © Estate of Mike Kelley; Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Mike Kelley (1954-2012), still from Day Is Done, 2005-2006. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Randy Slifka 2009.128 © Estate of Mike Kelley; Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Day Is Done
July 3, 2 pm
August 16, 11 am
September 19, 1 pm

Mike Kelley based his 2005–6 Day is Done on a series of high school yearbook photographs of “extracurricular activities,” which Kelley transformed into a fractured, quasi-narrative musical that cycles through themes such as personal trauma, the structure of the institution, repressed memory, mass cultural ritual, and adolescence.

Mike Kelley (b. 1954, Detroit, MI; d. 2012, South Pasadena, CA) Day Is Done, 2005–6. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Purchase with funds from Randy Slifka 2009.128

Matt Saunders (b. 1975), still from Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color; 10:45 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81 © 2015 Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders (b. 1975), still from Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color; 10:45 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81 © 2015 Matt Saunders

The Art of Vision
July 3, 8 pm
August 21, 11 am
September 19, 5 pm

The program includes Julie Murray’s Untitled (light) (2002), Sandra Gibson’s NYC Flower Film (2003), Stan Brakhage’s Chinese Series (2003), Bryan Frye’s Oona’s Veil (2000), Luis Recoder’s Linea (2002), and Matt Saunders’s Century Rolls (2012). Examining the material and formal conditions of film, video, and animation, these artists build on the tradition of American avant-garde filmmaking. On September 19, Sandra Gibson’s NYC Flower Film will be screened on film, and Gibson will be present.

Brian Frye (b. 1974, San Francisco, CA), Oona’s Veil, 2000. 16mm film, black and white, sound; 11 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2002.160

Julie Murray (b. 1961, Dublin, Ireland), Untitled (light), 2002. 16mm film, color, sound; 5 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2004.46

Luis Recoder (b. 1971, San Francisco, CA), Linea, 2002. Two channel 16mm film, black and white, silent; 18 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2005.23

Sandra Gibson (b. 1968, Portland, OR), NYC Flower Film, 2003. Super 8 film transferred to video, color, silent; 5 min. Purchase with funds from George Kaufman 2004.642

Stan Brakhage (b. 1933, Kansas City, MO; d. 2003; Victoria, Canada), Chinese Series, 2003. 16mm film, color, silent; 2 min. Purchase, with funds from the Orentreich Family Foundation  2005.119

Matt Saunders (b. 1975; Tacoma, WA) Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color, silent; 10:45 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81

Maya Deren (1917-1961), still from At Land, 1944. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent, 15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.45 © Estate of Maya Deren; image courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Maya Deren (1917-1961), still from At Land, 1944. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent, 15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2015.45 © Estate of Maya Deren; image courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Dream States
July 4, 11 am
August 16, 3 pm
September 6, 2 pm

Made in the 1940s, Maya Deren’s At Land (1944) and Hans Richter’s Dreams that Money Can Buy (1947) draw on dream imagery and surrealism to produce non-narrative experimental cinema.

Maya Deren (b. 1917, Kiev, Ukraine; d. 1961, New York, NY) At Land, 1944. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 15 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.45

Hans Richter (b. 1888, Berlin, Germany; d. 1976, Minusio, Switzerland) Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1943. 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 85 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  T.2014.151

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934), still from Five Easy Pieces, 1966-69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 48 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program  2011.91 © Yvonne Rainer; courtesy Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934), still from Five Easy Pieces, 1966-69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 48 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program 2011.91 © Yvonne Rainer; courtesy Video Data Bank, http://www.vdb.org

Inner and Outer Territories
July 4, 3 pm
August 21, 2 pm
September 6, 11 am

The social and psychological space presented in Yvonne Rainer’s Five Easy Pieces (1966–69) and David Lamelas’s The Desert People (1974) is set against the landscape of the deserts of the American West represented in Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1978) and Walter De Maria’s Hardcore (1969).

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934, San Francisco, CA), Five Easy Pieces, 1966–69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black‑and‑white, silent, 48 min. Purchase with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program  2011.91

Walter De Maria (b. 1935, Albany, CA; d. 2013, Los Angeles, CA), Hardcore, 1969. Two‑channel 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 28 min. Gift of Virginia Dwan  94.79

David Lamelas (b. 1946, Buenos Aires, Argentina), The Desert People, 1974. 16mm film, color, sound; 52 min. Gift of the artist  2001.238

Nancy Holt (b. 1938, Worcester, MA; d. 2014, New York, NY), Sun Tunnels, 1978. 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound, 28:31 min. Purchase with funds from Cristina Enriquez‑Bocobo in honor of Cody Smith  2010.142

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), still from Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.35 © Howardena Pindell

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), still from Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2015.35 © Howardena Pindell

Radical Takes
July 4, 6 pm
August 23, 11 am
August 30, 4 pm

Made at the height of the feminist movement, Howardena Pindell’s Free, White and 21 (1980), Cynthia Maughan’s sixteen selected videos (1973–78), and Suzanne Lacy’s Learn Where the Meat Comes From (1976) present frank, derisive, and at times humorous commentary on identity, including female subjectivity, and—in Pindell’s case—race.

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943, Philadelphia, PA), Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.35

Cynthia Maughan (b. 1949, Bell, CA), Scar/Scarf, 1973–74; Arteries and Veins, 1974; Frozen & Buried Alive, 1974–75; Coffin from Toothpicks, 1975; Statue, 1975; Razor Necklace, 1975; The Way Underpants Really Are, 1975; Chart of the Solar Systems Showing Gods Home on Venus, 1975; Monster Voice, 1975; Candy Mexican Hats, 1977; The Four Horsemen, 1977; Tsetse Fly, 1977–78; On Being in Love, 1977–78; I Tell Three Cats About Jail, 1977–78; Tamale Pie, 1978; Calcium Pills, 1978. All: Video, sound; running times variable. Purchased with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.1.1–16

Suzanne Lacy (b. 1945, Wasco, CA) Learn Where the Meat Comes From, 1976, from the series Anatomy Lessons. Video, color, sound; 14:20 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2014.142

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965), still from Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.17 © Kevin Jerome Everson; courtesy the artist, Tribolite-Arts DAC, and Picture Palace Pictures

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965), still from Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2012.17 © Kevin Jerome Everson; courtesy the artist, Tribolite-Arts DAC, and Picture Palace Pictures

Lyrical Observations
July 5, 11 am
August 14, 7 pm
August 29, 11 am

Robert Beavers’s Sotiros (1975–96), Kevin Jerome Everson’s Act One: Betty and the Candle (2010), Anna Gaskell’s SOSW Ballet (2011), and David Hartt’s Stray Light (2011) are intimate observations that become poetic—sometimes lyrical, sometimes pensive—in their sustained duration.

Robert Beavers (b. 1949, Brookline, MA), Sotiros, 1975–96. 35mm film, color, sound; 25 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee and preserved with funds from the National Film Preservation Foundation  2003.90

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965, Mansfield, OH), Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.17

Anna Gaskell (b. 1969, Des Moines, IA), SOSW Ballet, 2011. 35mm film, color, sound; 27:04 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.20

David Hartt (b. 1967, Montreal, Canada), Stray Light, 2011. Video, color, sound; 12:12 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2013.80

Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981), still from I Feel Your Pain, 2011. Video, color, sound; 180 min., with poster. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc. in honor of Ron Clark, Director, Independent Study Program  2013.14 © Liz Magic Laser 2011. Performa Commission. Featuring Annie Fox and Rafael Jordan. Photograph by Yola Monakhov

Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981), still from I Feel Your Pain, 2011. Video, color, sound; 180 min., with poster. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc. in honor of Ron Clark, Director, Independent Study Program 2013.14 © Liz Magic Laser 2011. Performa Commission. Featuring Annie Fox and Rafael Jordan. Photograph by Yola Monakhov

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