The 2014 Whitney Biennial will take a bold new form as three curators from outside the Museum—Stuart Comer (Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA), Anthony Elms (Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), and Michelle Grabner (artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago)—each oversee one floor, representing a range of geographic vantages and curatorial methodologies.
Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney, noted: “The 2014 Biennial brings together the findings of three curators with very distinct points of view. There is little overlap in the artists they have selected and yet there is common ground. This can be seen in their choice of artists working in interdisciplinary ways, artists working collectively, and artists from a variety of generations. Together, the 103 participants offer one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years.”
This Biennial will be the last to take place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
Whitney curators Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, who organized the widely acclaimed 2012 Biennial, will advise on the exhibition.
2014 BIENNIAL ARTISTS
Academy Records and Matt Hanner
Ei Arakawa and Carissa Rodriguez
Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, and Sensory Ethnography Lab
Critical Practices Inc.
Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst
Radamés “Juni” Figueroa
Gaylen Gerber with David Hammons, Sherrie Levine, and Trevor Shimizu
Tony Greene curated by Richard Hawkins and Catherine Opie
Yve Laris Cohen
Born in Lake Forest, IL
My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade)
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Steve Reinke with Jessie Mott
Valerie Snobeck and Catherine Sullivan
Charline von Heyl
David Foster Wallace
If the Whitney Biennial is a snapshot of American art at this moment, and if any intimate encounter with American art at this moment must be mediated (as all intimacies these days are), then Marcel Breuer’s museum building here at 945 Madison Avenue is a well-disposed mediation for capturing twenty-four scenes of America. In assembling the artistsand groups I tried to answer a question of Breuer’s from his notes on the building: “What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?”
I looked to answer Breuer’s question with twenty-four artists and groups that fit a statement by poet Susan Howe: “I believed in an American aesthetic of uncertainty that could represent beauty in syllables so scarce and rushed they would appear to expand though they lay half-smothered in local history.” In part because, given the sprawl, assembling an overview of American art these days is a fool’s errand—America is constant expansion. And because, to paraphrase a position declared by musician Mayo Thompson: I try for timeliness, while reserving the right to ask my own dumb questions. After all, it is always preferable to make time rather than to mark time.
How to define “American” in a survey of contemporary American art, especially one with as much history behind it as the Whitney Biennial, is a question that has often challenged, even vexed, curators. As an American who has spent much of the last thirteen years in the United Kingdom, I have been compelled by artists whose work is as hybrid as the significant global, environmental, and technological shifts reshaping the United States. The work I have brought together for the Biennial reflects this, whether through complex relationships between linguistic and visual forms; the interface of digital technologies with more traditional media, and the recorded past with the lived moment; the development of two-dimensional scores, scripts, and patterns into three- or even four-dimensional actions and environments; the challenging of binary conventions of gender; or the intricacy of cosmopolitan, cross-national identities. Ideas about migration and movement are raised here too, as are those related to a position (geographic or otherwise) at a kind of periphery, off the mainland so to speak. The surfaces and spaces of the gallery respond in kind, playing multiple roles—from white cube to theater to cinema to publishing forum, and sometimes all of these at once.
Although it may be far-reaching to think that a Whitney Biennial could be organized as a curriculum for other artists, aiming at pedagogy seemed a worthy ambition. Not because I am an artist and a teacher, nor because I sought to create a democratic survey, but because I didn’t want the frame that the viewer will look through to be a purely subjective take on contemporary American art. Instead, I developed a fourth-floor curriculum that presents identifiable themes, generalities even, that are currently established in the textures of contemporary aesthetic, political, and economic realities. Within this curriculum, contours can be drawn around three overlapping priorities: contemporary abstract painting by women; materiality and affect theory; and art as strategy—in other words, conceptual practices oriented toward criticality. Theoretically, the works that I included will each demand from the viewer a varied network of analysis.