the whitney museum biennial

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.

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]

Lyle Ashton Harris’s Once (Now) Again, a site-specific multimedia installation, features a three-channel video work comprised of projected images taken from Harris’s Ektachrome Archive (photographed 1986–2000) as well as three new video works using footage originally recorded on Hi-8 and MiniDV format in the 1990s. The resulting assemblage serves to both memorialize and evoke moments lived at the intersection of the personal and the political.

Bearing witness to a period of seismic shifts—the emergence of multiculturalism, the second wave of AIDS activism, and the interconnection of the contemporary art scene with LGBTQ and African diasporic communities—the Ektachrome Archive, an ongoing project, documents his friends, family, and lovers. By setting intimate moments alongside landmark events (such as the Black Popular Culture Conference in 1991, the truce between the Crips and the Bloods in 1992, the Black Male exhibition at the Whitney in 1994, and the Black Nations/Queer Nations Conference in 1995), the archive constructs collective and private narratives to comment on identity, desire, sexuality, and loss.

Explore the Ektachrome slide images from the three-channel video installation Ektachrome Archives (New York Mix) (2017) on whitney.org

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The 2017 Whitney Biennial, the seventy-eighth installment of the longest-running survey of American art, opens today! The Biennial features sixty-three individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.

Always a flashpoint for discussion and debate, the Biennial is an exhibition not to be missed.