The Whitney Museum of American Art announced Monday that seventy-five artists have been selected to present their work in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, co-organized by two Whitney curators, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley. This will be the seventy-ninth in the long-running series of exhibitions launched by the Museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in 1932. Considered the country’s foremost survey of contemporary American art, the Whitney Biennial delivers a frontline report on what’s happening in American art today. The 2019 edition will run from May 17 through September 22.
Panetta remarked: “Ru and I especially focused on emerging artists and first time Biennial participants: approximately seventy-five percent of the artists in the show are under forty and only five have previously appeared in a Whitney Biennial. In part, this emphasis resulted from what we saw during our research across the U.S., as we were struck by the profound difficulties of our current moment and the ways in which so many artists we encountered are struggling and facing fewer opportunities to present their work publicly.”
Hockley noted, “Although intentionally broad in scope, the exhibition explores key themes, including the mining of history in order to reimagine the present or future, a profound and sustained consideration of questions of equity along financial, racial, and sexual lines, a concern with climate change, and explorations of the vulnerability of the body. Artists in the exhibition are engaged with notions of what community means and can provide while using art to confront and cope with our current world.”
Adam D. Weinberg, the Museum’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, commented: “Taking the pulse of American creativity and culture, the Whitney Biennial has been finding the future of contemporary art for nearly a century. The Biennial is an essential strand of the Museum’s DNA, a chance to reaffirm one of the Whitney’s deepest commitments: to support the work of living artists and to engage in a cultural dialogue about what contemporary art is and why it matters.”
The artists selected for the 2019 Whitney Biennial, ranging from emerging to well-established individuals and collectives, are working in painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, performance, and sound. Work will be presented throughout the Fifth and Sixth Floor exhibition galleries, as well as in numerous spaces both inside and outside the Museum. The curators traveled throughout the country and made more than 300 studio visits over the past year. A small number of the artists in the exhibition are Canadian, several are based in Puerto Rico, and a number were born abroad or now live and work outside the U.S.
A broad range of performance projects and artists will be presented, with some artists directly engaged with dance (and the history of the medium), and others working in the space of social engagement and critique. Eight artists (including one collective) will be working in the galleries, in the theater, outdoors, and in various interstitial spaces throughout the Museum.
Additionally, Greta Hartenstein (formerly a senior curatorial assistant at the Whitney, now an independent curator focused on performance) will co-curate the performance program of the Biennial, bringing in work by Autumn Knight, nibia pastrana santiago, and Mariana Valencia, each of whom will engage with the interstitial spaces of the Whitney. Knight will re-present a long-standing and ongoing performance Sanity TV, here reconsidered for specific locations and contexts within the Museum. santiago will present a new work in the building, combining her extensive background in dance with considerations around the Museum’s site downtown adjacent to the Hudson River. And Valencia will also present a new work, expanding her interest in combining research with durational choreography and dance.
Three guest curators were invited to select the eleven artists for the film program: Maori Karmael Holmes (BlackStar Film Festival founder), artist and filmmaker Sky Hopinka (whose work was shown in the 2017 Biennial), and filmmaker/documentarian Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell and Teenage).
Making use of an augmented reality component, Lucas Blalock will create a mural-sized photographic work to be exhibited on the façade of 95 Horatio Street, located opposite the Museum and across from the southern entrance to the High Line, on the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets. Jeffrey Gibson will create a work for the Lobby using fabric and text, to be installed above the admissions desk; Diane Simpson will have a solo presentation with multiple sculptures in the Lobby Gallery; Marcus Fischer’s sound installation will be heard in the stairwell; the Fifth Floor terrace will be the site of a new sculptural installation with embedded videos by Meriem Bennani; and there will be a new large-scale, multi-part sculpture by Nicole Eisenman, a tableau of monumental figures, installed on the Museum’s Sixth Floor terrace.