2019 Whitney Biennial

— May 17, 2019 by YIART

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Since its founding in 1932, the Whitney Museum of American Art has been carrying the mission of observing and presenting the trends of contemporary American Art. This year's Whitney Biennial, which has entered its 79th year, will present 75 artists' works at the Whitney Museum of American Art from May 17th to September 22nd 2019.

After two curators, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, visited more than 300 artists' studios across the country, they felt that today's young artists are facing the dilemma of lacking a platform to showcase their work, and this year's focus will be on the new artists who made their debut at the Whitney Biennial. In addition to well-known established artists such as American female film and video artist Barbara Hammer, Mexican-American performance artist James Luna, and self-taught African American artist Joe Minter, 75% of participating artists are under 40 years old, and only 5 of them have participated in Whitney Biennial. A small number of participating artists are from Canada, and some artists based in Puerto Rico or live and work outside the United States.

The works of this year's Biennial include a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, performing arts and sound art. The exhibition explores issues such as finance, racial, gender issues, climate change, and the exploration of physical vulnerability under the cover of the key theme “mining history to reimagine the present or the future”. The works of the artists participating in the exhibition also responded to the artist's meaning and views on the “community”.

The works will be majorly placed in the fifth and sixth floor exhibition space of the new building of Whitney Museum of American Art, as wells as many others will be placed in the indoor and outdoor spaces of the museum. The eccentric American artist Lucas Blalock will use the augmented reality component to create a mural-sized photograph across the museum and at the south entrance of the High Line; New York artist Jeffrey Gibson will create work used by fabric and text at Lobby, installed above the admissions desk; the sculptures of Chicago artist Diane Simpson will be presented in the Lobby Gallery; the sound device of cross-disciplinary artist and musician Marcus Fischer will reverberate in the stairwell; the sculptural installation work at Fifth Floor terrace will be made by Moroccan American artist Meriem Bennani by using recessed video; the Sixth Floor terrace will house a large-scale sculpture createdby the painter and sculptor Nicole Eisenman.

This year's Biennial will also bring a lot of performance art projects. Greta Hartenstein, a former senior curatorial assistant of Whitney Museum of American Art and now independent curator of the performing arts, will co-curate on the performance program with Whitney Biennale team, bringing works by cross-disciplinary artists such as Autumn Knight, nibia pastrana santiago and Maria Valencia . Eight performing artists will perform, including dance in the exhibition space of the museum, theaters, outdoor venues and the entire space of the museum. These artists include New York performance artist Morgan Bassichis who combines stand-up comedy and music with bizarre stories; Canadian artist Brendan Fernandes lets the ballet dancers dance between the sculptural installation in the galleries; Madeline Hollander's dance questioning the boundaries between our body and our living environment; New York based Sahra Motalebi will present her new iteration opera "Directory of Portrayals"; the sister-art-group, Las Nietas de Nonó presenting performances across theatre, dance and visual art that focuses on their hometown, Puerto Rico.

There are three guest curators, including Maori Karmael Homes, the founder of the BlackStar Film Festival, filmmaker Sky Hopinka, and filmmaker and documentarian Matt Wolf, are invited to participate in the screening of 11 artists' film projects. The 11 artists are Jenn Nkiru, an British-born visual artist and director of black music, fashion and visual arts culture; Darius Clark Monroe, one of the behind-the-scenes members of the HBO late-night series "Random Acts of Flyness"; a Ghana-born hip hop musician, director and visual artist Blitz Bazawule (also known as Blitz the Ambassador); Canadian short film director Thirza Cuthand; Mexican collective, Colectivo Los Ingràvidos which reflects the violence and corruption in Mexico with moving-image; James Luna, a Mexican-American performing artist, photographer, and multimedia installation artist who looks at the iconography of Indigenous experience of America; Caroline Monnet, an artist and filmmaker who responds to Canadian life and identity conflicts with moving-image and multimedia devices; Video recordings by the combined groups Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil and Jackson Polys record the assumptions of Native American culture; Barbara Hammer, one of the pioneers of gay film, who died on March 16th this year, has been speaking for feminism for more than 50 years; Sam Green's documentary is full of fearless complex ideas and history Pieces; And FIERCE/ Paper Tiger Television is working together to discuss the conflicts issues at Christopher Street Wharf, and the erasure of queer histories and spaces.

Two curators of 2019 Whitney Biennial, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, have extensive experience in the exhibition. Jane Panetta, a curator and historian, worked as a curatorial assistant for the painting and sculpture department at MoMA in New York for five years. The exhibitions she has participated in include the 2015 "America Is Hard to See", 2016 “Mirror Cells”and 2017 "Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s". Rujeko Hockley was an assistant curator at the Brooklyn Museum and participated in numerous important exhibitions. She joined the Whitney Museum in 2017 and has co-curated exhibitions including "Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wandet Determined" and "An Incomplete History of Protesr: Selections from the Whitney's Collection, 1940-2017". The Whitney Biennial 2019 is presented by the famous jewellery brand Tifanny & Co. and provided by The Rosenkranz Foundation and the Whitney’s National Committe.

Almost every session of the Whitney Biennial has ushered in some controversy. According to the New York Times, on December 18 last year, before the announcement of the list of exhibitors, Iraqi-American conceptual artist Michael Rokowitz wrote to the Whitney Biennial curator to express his decision to withdraw from the 2019 Whitney Biennial, to express his protest against Warren Kanders, vice chairman of the Whitney Biennale. Warren Kanders is the CEO of law enforcement agency and armament manufacturing equipment company Safariland, which supplies military equipment for US-Mexico border fence control. Michael Rokowitz expressed strong dissatisfaction with the company's actions to help suppress this. Although the two curators expressed regret that Michael Rokowitz could not participate in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, they also respected the artist's decision.

Figure 1: Korakrit Arunanondchai, Together with history in a room filled with people with funny names 4, 2017. High-definition video, color, sound; 23:28 min. Image courtesy the artist; boychild; Clearing, New York and Brussels; and Carlos/Ishikawa, London. Photograph byAlexander Addington-White
Figure 2 left top: Rujeko Hockley (left) and Jane Panetta (right). Photograph by Scott Rudd.
Figure 2 right top: Meriem Bennani, Siham & Hafida, 2017. Six-channel digital video installation, color, sound; 30 min. (looped), dimensions variable. Installation view, The Kitchen, New York, NY, 2017. Image courtesy the artist. Photograph by Jason Mandella
Figure 2 left bottom: Photograph by Ed Lederman © 2016.
Figure 2 right bottom: Keegan Monaghan, Incoming, 2016-17. Oil on canvas, 60 3/8 x 72 in. (153.4 x182.9 cm). Collection of Ninah and Michael Lynne. Image courtesy the artist and James Fuentes Gallery, New York. Photograph by Jason Mandella

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