A Life in Art

Reopening New York, Whitney Museum of American Art

Reopening the Whitney Museum of American Art was another giant step toward New York normal. And, it was great getting back inside, and out.

By David Stone

Soon after the state released guidelines for reopening New York’s array of art museums, the Whitney acted. The Chelsea venue at the end of High Line Park, joined The Met in reopening, first to members, then the rest of the eager universe.

All required timed passes, but members are welcome now and all others, starting Thursday, September 3rd.

A walk through the featured Collections from 1900 to 1965 was like refreshing juice in a summer of dried heat.

Reopening The Whiney Museum of American Art, Outside and In
A striking feature from the reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art was this reminder that the city is its inspiration.

Seen from the 7th floor deck, New York stands as a reminder of all the spirit that undergirds the galleries. And a place to reflect on the wonders inside.

Scenes: Reopening the Whitney Museum of Modern Art

You’re reminded of what we’ve missed right away when the elevator doors open on the top floor. Art from collections covering its first sixty-five years welcome your eyes, and your eyes catch the rush of images.

Here’s a sampling of what’s ahead.

Entrance to the Whitney's "Collections from 1900 to 1965."
A spread of a century’s best art, saved by the Whitney, sets an immediate tone.
Edward Hopper, The Queensboro Bridge. Hopper completed this painting in 1913, and it shows the piers on Welfare Island. The land, now Roosevelt Island, splits the East and West Channels of the East River.
Fantasia on a Theme (1946) by Paul Cadmus reflects changing American culture, following World War II. Contrasts in the charge toward modernity are vast.

Video: Jacob Lawrence’s War Series

Jacob Lawrence served in a segregated Coast Guard unit in Florida during World War II, but his talent recognized, he went on to an integrated unit as an artist. His paintings, recording action in Europe, Africa and Asia, got a room to themselves at the Whitney reopening.

Here’s a video.

The African-American experience in World War II, from segregated to integrated.
From Collections 1900 to 1965, seen at the reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Henry Koerner: Mirror of Life, 1946. After Koerner served in the American army in World War II, he returned to his native Vienna. He found that both of his parents died in concentration camps, and life was in turmoil. The figure on the right is assumed as representing Koerner himself, observing post war Vienna.
Horace Pippin: The Buffalo Hunt. After buffeting criticism for cultural insensitivity, the Whitney changed. Here, African American Horace Pippin’s painting depicts carnage on the Great Plains.

At mid-century, American expressionists made New York center of the art world…

The Whitney was there, playing a big part in fostering American expressionists shocking the world.

At the Whitney's reopening, a large Jackson Pollack Canvas.
Best known and most original of American expressionists, Jackson Pollack painted Number 27, 1950. His famous drip style, misunderstood as mindless, was dense with design detail.
From Jasper Johns, Three Flags blends expressionism paint with sculptural object detail.

At the Whitney Museum of American Art’s reopening, space for cultural comment…

Seeming innocuous at first, Malcom Bailey’s Untitled work from 1969 actually represents the design of a slave ship. Bodies are arranged for maximum capacity, and at the center is cotton, the plant inspiring kidnapping and nightmare conditions in America.
Paul Cadmus, in Sailors and Floosies (1938) depicts city life as Americans began flocking in from the countryside.
Reporting the banal sameness of American culture, Roy Lichtenstein’s Bathroom (1961) lacks regional character in its standard design. It could be almost anywhere.
Take a break. Sculpture and high in the sky seating on the 7th floor terrance.
Last, Willem de Kooning’s Door To The River, reminder of the art that made New York and the Whitney famous.

Reopening the Whitney Museum of American Art: Conclusion

For many of us, especially New Yorkers, reopening art museums is a giant step toward normal, and maybe, it’s the biggest of all. It was hard getting here, but patience and community made it happen.

Now, take time to enjoy the shows and contribute to our success.

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