With Half Mast, Derek Fordjour debuts a new work that reflects on the current national reckoning with mass shootings, and the relentless threat of violence against Black and Brown bodies. A portrait of this divided moment in U.S. history, Half Mast presents law officers, students, and ordinary civilians in one compressed, shared space. Alongside teddy bears and balloons reminiscent of street-side memorials, some figures appear marked with targets while others have been reduced to silhouettes.
Fordjour’s image holds no one person or group responsible for the violence, even as it speaks to loss and abuse of power. Painted brightly in his signature graphic style, the work points to possibilities of a future civic movement or celebration. Derek Fordjour first made Half Mast as a painting; here, in his first solo museum exhibition, it is presented as a public art installation in the form of a large vinyl print, located outdoors at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, across the street ands down one block from the Whitney Museum, and directly across from the end of the High Line.
Alvin Loving (1935 – 2005) once described geometric shape as “a sort of mundane form that could be very, very dull unless a great deal was done with it.” For him, however, geometry ultimately became an arena in which to develop a dramatic color sensibility. Juxtaposing neon-bright pigments, in Septehedron 34 (1970) he created the illusion that the painting’s forms recede or advance relative to one another. At the same time, his use of geometric forms emphasized the flat surface of the canvas, from which a tension emerges between real and imagined space. Also notable for its visible brush stocks, Loving’s shaped canvas takes up the challenge of making all seven sides of a heptahedron visible at once.
In 1969, Alvin Loving became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s, On View Through August 31st, 2019 at the Whitney Museum in NYC.
Andy Warhol based his Mao paintings, drawings, lithographs, photocopy prints, and wallpaper on the same image: a painting by Zhang Zhenshi that served as the frontispiece for Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (known in the “West as The Little Red Book”) and was then thought to be the most widely reproduced artwork in the world. Warhol chose the image of Mao — then chairman of the Chinese Communist Party — after reading news coverage of President Richard Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China in February of 1972, an unprecedented act of cold war diplomacy that marked the first act by a sitting American president to the nation, which at the tie was considered an enemy of the state.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, at the Whitney Museum of American Art Through March 31st, 2019.
Rockwell Kent (1882 – 1971) was a self-proclaimed wanderer who felt most at home in the wilderness. His artistic and philosophical devotion to nature lead him to explore far-reaching places that served as inspiration for his rugged landscape paintings, as well as several published travelogues.
Moonlight, Winter (1940) depicts the farm in New York’s Adirondack mountains, where Kent eventually settled in 1927. The scene conjures the artist’s vision of a certain — if somewhat distant — harmony between there vastness of the night sky and the quaint shelter of human life.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Over the course of a career that stretched from the 1920s to the 1980s, Alice Neel painted portraits of hundreds of friends, family members, lovers, artists art historians, writers, and political activists, believing that “people are the greatest and profoundest key to an era.” Seeking to express psychology above absolute physical likeness, she often used exaggerated colors and expressive brushstrokes and eliminated extraneous details in order to capture the inner lives of her subjects.
Neel was a longtime supporter of leftist causes. In the painting of Pat Whalen (1935), she depicts the Communist activist and union organizer for the longshoremen of Baltimore as a paragon of social justice. Whalen’s creased face and expression — along with a copy of the Daily Worker, the official newspaper of the Communist Party USA, resting beneath his large, clenched — suggest both a noble archetype of the blue-collar worker and an all-consuming commitment to the working man’s cause.
Magnet TV (1965) is an early example of Nam June Paik’s“Prepared Televisions,” works in which he altered the television’s image or its physical casing. This work consists of a seventeen-inch, black and white set with an industrial-size magnet resting on top of it. The magnetic field interferes with the television’s reception of electronic signals, distorting the picture into an abstract form that changes when the magnet is moved.
Paik’s radical action undermines the seemingly inviolable power of broadcast television by transforming the TV set into sculpture, one whose moving image is created by chance, and can be manipulated at will. Through his alteration of the television image, Paik challenged the notion of the art object as a self-contained entity and established a process of instant feedback, whereby the viewer’s actions have a direct effect on the form and meaning of the work.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Abstract Browsing 17 03 05 (Google) (2017) is a machine woven tapestry depicting an abstract version of the Google browser’s interface. To produce his Abstract Browsing series, Rafaël Rozendaal created a plug-in for Google’s Chrome Browser. Available to anyone online, it reduces images and text on any website visited to colored rectangles. The artist surfs the web every day using his plug-in and compiles thousands of screenshots, which he then narrows down to a small selection to be produced as tapestries
The tapestries are created at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, where Rozendaal’s screenshots are converted into a file for output by a weaving machine. His project connects layers of machine abstraction: the initial transformation of the webpage exposes a composition optimized to grab our attention, while the tapestry references the roots of computing in nineteenth-century weaving machines that automated the creation of patterns.