Adam Weinberg has been director of the Whitney Museum of American Art since 2003: the Whitney, located on Madison Avenue in New York, is one of the most important museums in the world dedicated to contemporary art, and hosts – just to give an example – some of the best works of Edward Hopper. I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Weinberg during a trip to New York and since then, in the name of our common passion for contemporary art, Adam has been a reader and fan of this blog.
As a result, he decided to send me a – very interesting – post on the cultural ferment the Whitney is currently experiencing. Thanks Adam! And to all contemporary art fans, enjoy!
This is an incredibly exciting moment at the Whitney. Our Biennial has been on for about a month – it opened to rave reviews, a rare occurrence for the always risk-taking Whitney Biennial, as I’m sure you know. Some are saying it is the best Biennial ever. Writing in The New York Times, Roberta Smith called it “One of the best Whitney Biennials in recent memory… The 2012 incarnation is a new and exhilarating species of exhibition, an emerging curatorial life form, at least for New York… In a way that is at once superbly ordered and open-ended, densely structured and, upon first encounter, deceptively unassuming, the exhibition manages both to reinvent the signature show of the Whitney Museum of American Art and to offer a bit of redemption for the out-of-control, money-saturated art world… It is a show in continual flux… Multiple visits are warranted, in fact necessary, to get a true sense of this show’s richness and the improvisatory energy it brings to the Whitney.”
It’s true that the show brings amazing energy to the Museum, especially through the constantly changing fourth-floor performances. This was perhaps the most brilliant coup of the curators, Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders – to turn the fourth floor into a giant performance space where dancers, musicians, installation artists, filmmakers, actors and playwrights can transform the space throughout the course of the exhibition. It never stops evolving, full of surprises for all of us, alive with art that is being created before our eyes. It’s a great way for audiences to witness the artistic process as it’s happening.
For the first two weeks in March, the brilliant choreographer Sarah Michelson inaugurated the Biennial’s performance space with her stunning dance, Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer. This week, Michael Clark is activating the space with a dazzling dance that mixes professional and non-professional dancers, with music by the British rock star Jarvis Cocker (he and his band Relaxed Muscle are performing live this week) and lighting by Charles Atlas, who is also a Biennial artist in his own right. Atlas takes over the space next week with screenings of his film Ocean, documenting one of Merce Cunningham’s most ambitious dances, set in a granite quarry in Minnesota. And there is much more to come!
In addition to the performances, we’re showing dozens of artists, at all points in their careers, who have created collages, photographs, installations, paintings, sculptures, films and videos. Werner Herzog has contributed an installation that pays homage to the etchings of the Dutch landscape artist Hercules Segers; it is a moving meditation on artistic inspiration. There are brightly colorful, eye-popping paintings by Andrew Masullo. Nicole Eisenman is showing new paintings and a group of monotypes, some of her most powerful work to date. In a tribute conceived by Robert Gober, a room is devoted to the work of the visionary painter Forrest Bess. An exceptionally strong group of filmmakers includes Thom Andersen, Kevin Jerome Everson, Luther Price, Kelly Reichardt, Wu Tsang, and Frederick Wiseman, among many others. The entire show is dedicated to the memory of the great Mike Kelley, whose Mobile Homestead videos are being shown in May. The Biennial continues through the beginning of June; all the information is on our website at www.whitney.org.
I do hope you’ll be able to spend some time here soon and thank you for spreading the word to other lovers of contemporary art!
All my best,
Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965), Untitled, 2011. Mixed-media monotype, 24 3/4 x 19 3/4 in. (62.9 x 50.2 cm) each. The Hall Collection.
© Nicole Eisenman; courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York