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Feininger’s ‘Carnival in Arcueil’ (1911) Lyonel Feininger Family, LLC/ARS

It’s hard to predict who will be more delighted by “Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World,” now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art: Feininger’s small coterie of ardent fans or the vast majority of the public who have never heard of him.

To both groups, however, the exhibition—Feininger’s first solo museum show in the U.S. in decades—should be a revelation. Aside from displaying the full panoply of his paintings, it brings together for the first time his pioneering comic strips and caricatures, woodcuts, photographs, and hand-carved, painted wooden figures and buildings—toy sculptures forming a village that came to be known as “The City at the Edge of the World.”


Judith H. Dobrzysnki
Wall Street Journal

While at the groundbreaking for the downtown Whitney Museum last week, I got to thinking about the uptown building. As with most change, there are risks associated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent deal to occupy the Whitney Museum’s Madison Avenue Breuer building when it decamps for Tribeca.

But there is a huge opportunity too. So forget about the knee-jerk reactions others have expressed about how putting contemporary art into the Whitney “outpost” turns it into a stepchild, or how Met will lower its quality standards to fill those galleries.

Or even, from another point of view, how it will divide the Met’s audience — the cool kids will go to the contemporary galleries and the fuddy-duddies will go to the Fifth Avenue Met.

I have aspirations for the Met-Whitney, which are related to the third.

It isn’t always easy for museum-goers to see or understand links between old art and new art, yet many contemporary artists are inspired by pre-WW II art. I would like to see the Met organize exhibitions in the Breuer building that helps people learn about those relationships.


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Adam D. Weinberg, the director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, presided over a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for the museum’s new building on Gansevoort Street at the southern entrance of the High Line in Manhattan. The architect of the project, Renzo Piano, was also on hand, as were a number of city officials, members of the Whitney board of trustees and performers from the STREB Extreme Action Company.

“Today, we begin to create the Whitney of the future, an aspirational space where contemporary artists can realize their visions and audiences can connect deeply with art,” Mr. Weinberg said in a statement. The building is scheduled to open in 2015, and will be a decidedly different type of structure than the Whitney’s building at 75th and Madison, where Jacqueline Kennedy attended the ribbon-cutting in 1966, and a far cry from its first space, in 1931, in back of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s studio in some row houses at 10-14 West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village.


New York Times

Jacqueline Kennedy attended the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1966. Jack Manning/The New York Times

Whither the Whitney? Yes, it’s got a swell building designed by Renzo Piano under way in the meatpacking district, to be finished in 2015. But what about its structure at 75th and Madison, where Jacqueline Kennedy attended the ribbon-cutting in 1966? Ornery and menacing, it may be New York’s most bellicose work of architecture.

The artist, heiress and collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney established the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931 in back of her studio in some row houses at 10-14 West Eighth Street. In the 1950s the Whitney jumped to a small structure behind the Museum of Modern Art. In 1961 the museum enlarged its board — to include, for instance, Mrs. Kennedy — and began seeking a site for a larger building.

The board found just the spot at the southeast corner of Madison and 75th Street, which was owned by the developer and art collector Ian Woodner. He had cleared it of a lovely little group of houses, including a brick-and-brownstone Queen Anne, an Edwardian limestone and a demure neo-Federal. Mr. Woodner, who had intended to erect an apartment house, agreed to sell the property to the Whitney.

The board, despite a mission to encourage American art, hired the architect Marcel Breuer, who was Hungarian-born and Bauhaus-trained, to design a building


Christopher Gray
New York Times

To expand downtown or not to expand downtown, this is the nagging, seemingly unanswerable question facing the Whitney Museum of American Art. The museum won’t know the right answer for sure until it tries it; if it doesn’t, it will never know. But it is right in asserting that it must do something to remain viable in what has become a cutthroat competition for museum visitors in New York.


Roberta Smith
New York Times

“Pink Tons” by Roni Horn (Photo: Hauser & Wirth Hermann Feldhaus/Hauser & Wirth)

From a review of the Roni Horn show at the Whitney:

Ms. Horn’s work has both benefited and suffered from being what might be called “curators’ art.” Curators’ art is indisputably, even innocuously, elegant — with clear roots in Minimal and Conceptual Art and not much else. It tends to be profusely appreciated by a hermetic few, curators, artists and theorists, who fetishize its refinements and often take its creators pretty much at their word. Ms. Horn has always had a lot to say about what her work means and how it is to be viewed, and some of it is quite interesting, but artists don’t own the meaning of their artworks.


Roberta Smith
New York Times

“Red and Orange Streak” (1919) is part of Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction at the Whitney. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

There are two Georgia O’Keeffes. They’re closely related, but one is far more interesting than the other. Not so interesting, except maybe as a marketing phenomenon, is the post-1930s cow-skull painter and striker of frontier-priestess poses. More interesting, and less familiar, is the artist found in “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction,” a vivid and surprisingly surprising show of more than 130 paintings and drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The show’s focus is on the first two decades of O’Keeffe’s long career. The story starts in 1915, when she was an art teacher in South Carolina and produced her first abstract drawings, which were also among the first fully abstract images by any American artist. Three years later she had her first encounter with the photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz, who set her up in New York, initiating a long personal, professional and mutually promotional partnership.


Holland Cotter
New York Times

“Triangular Solid with Circular Inserts (Variation E),” 1989-2007, at the Whitney Museum

Here’s a good art-world quiz question, one that could stump many an astute insider: What do Sol LeWitt, Sonic Youth, Dean Martin, Mel Brooks, Merle Haggard, Hudson River School painting and midcentury New Jersey tract housing have in common?

The answer, Dan Graham — a Zelig of so many creative circles over the past four decades it is dizzying to keep track — sat recently sipping an iced tea and eavesdropping on conversations at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where a retrospective of his work opened Thursday, finally adding him to the ranks of conceptual art’s thorny 1960s pioneers to receive a full-blown American career survey. (The show, organized with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, began there and travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis after it closes in New York on Oct. 11.)

Among his conceptual peers, those who set out to wrest art from the realm of objects and move it more fully into one of ideas, Mr. Graham, 67, is someone whose work does not come easily to mind even for an informed artgoing public. In part this is because his restless intellect has never allowed him to settle into anything resembling a signature style or to be easily categorized. (Most attempts at categorization are parried by Mr. Graham himself with a professorial annoyance and fencer’s agility, and he dislikes being called a conceptual artist and says he is not a professional one in any sense, calling art his “passionate hobby.”)

If the world had nothing else for which to thank him, it might be enough that during a brief stint as a dealer he gave LeWitt his first solo gallery show, along with presenting early work by Dan Flavin and Donald Judd. Or for the part Mr. Graham played later in the formation of Sonic Youth — he helped Kim Gordon, one of the group’s founders, land her first New York apartment in his Lower East Side building and cast her in an all-girl “band” for a 1980s performance piece, jump-starting her music career. When Mr. Graham, rumpled and white-bearded with a kind of Mr. Natural aura, shows up at cutting-edge rock concerts these days, well-read 20-somethings tend to mill around him admiringly.

But it is the way his artistic DNA has seeped into the work of younger artists over such a prolonged period that underscores his importance. Chrissie Iles, a curator at the Whitney who organized the show with Bennett Simpson, a curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, said that prominent artists as well distributed over the years as Tony Oursler (video artist, born 1957), Rirkrit Tiravanija (known for the shows in which he cooks for gallery visitors, born 1961) and Wade Guyton (who “paints” with printers, born 1972) all showed strong traces of Mr. Graham’s influence. Their work looks and feels almost nothing like his, or like one another’s, a remarkable testament to the way Mr. Graham’s fascination with perception and with the conventions of art and mass-produced culture have become part of the contemporary art landscape.

Because so much of his work — from early pop-culture writing to performances with video cameras to his well known mirrored pavilions — is about what Mr. Simpson called “the way one experiences the space of the self,” it has also seemed more prescient as each new iteration of the Web alters the calculus of media, society and individuality.

“The pieces make sense, in a way, even more than they did 10 years ago,” Ms. Iles said, “when they had a completely different kind of reading because we hadn’t gotten to this stage yet, the stage of Twitter and Facebook and Flickr.”


Randy Kennedy
New York Times