the whitney museum biennial

Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, Eleanor Antin – 1972

A landmark early feminist work, Eleanor Antin’s Carving: A Traditional Sculpture comprises 148 black-and-white photographs documenting the artist’s loss of 10 pounds over 37 days. Every morning she was photographed naked in the same four stances to record her barely perceptible self-induced weight loss. (The photographs from each day are arranged vertically, and the entire process can be read horizontally, like a filmstrip.) Antin’s performance purposely toyed with the traditional process of Greek sculptors, who were said to find their ideal form by chipping away at a block of marble and discarding any unnecessary material. The artist’s idea of “carving” her own body was inspired by an invitation from the Whitney Museum of Art for its biennial survey exhibition, which at the time restricted itself to the established categories of painting and sculpture, though this work was considered too conceptual for the exhibition.

This morning, we’re getting a first look at the 2017 Biennial. Here’s Raúl de Nieves’s site-specific work on the fifth floor. The artist covered six floor-to-ceiling windows with eighteen “stained-glass” panels he made using paper, wood, glue, tape, beads, and acetate sheets. They create a vivid backdrop for the beaded sculptures, especially in the morning sun!

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We have moved into a situation where wealth is the only agreed-upon arbiter of value. Capitalism has overtaken contemporary art, quantifying it and reducing it to the status of a commodity. Ours is a system adrift in mortgaged goods and obsessed with accumulation, where the spectacle of art consumption has been played out in a public forum geared to journalistic hyperbole.
—  Richard Armstrong, Richard Marshall and Lisa Philips, essay for the 1989 Whitney Biennial — written at the edge of a major crash in the market circa 1990.

Don’t miss Larry Bell’s Pacific Red II, which debuted as part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial this past spring. On view through this Sunday, the work consists of six laminated glass cubes; each measuring six by eight feet and enclosing another six-by-four-foot glass box. The multiple surfaces interplay and respond to their urban surroundings. 

[Visitors explore Larry Bell’s Pacific Red II, 2017 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 17–October 1, 2017). Photograph by Ian Allen]

As part of his ongoing project to make labor visible, artist Ramiro Gomez creates paintings of the Whitney’s staff members at work in the Museum and gives these new works to his subjects.

Invited by Rafa Esparza to contribute to the installation Figure Ground: Beyond the White Field, Gomez spent time observing Whitney staff members—from janitorial workers to security guards—in the week leading up to the opening of the 2017 Biennial. Gomez recorded his observations in cell phone photographs. Using these images as the basis for paintings on pieces of cardboard, he returns to the museum with the intention presenting these artworks as a gesture of appreciation and respect.

Visitors are invited to observe the artist at work in the galleries through June 1. 

[Photograph and painting by Ramiro Gomez, 2017]