Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Through November 25, $18-$25
“Your perception creates the painting,” Mary Corse says in a video about her first museum survey, “Mary Corse: A Survey in Light,” continuing at the Whitney through November 25. Since the mid-1960s, the California native has been addressing unique aspects of light, time, and space in her paintings and sculptures, the vast majority of which are shades of white. Many of the works change as you approach them, appearing different when seen from different angles and distances, forming an ever-changing relationship between viewer, surface, and light. “Corse’s White Light paintings are not works that depict movement but rather works that embody, and require, movement. To truly see Corse’s art we must move: there is no ideal vantage point,” Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg writes in the foreword to the catalog. “As much as we might try, we cannot ever find the perfect viewing position; experiencing a Corse painting is in and of itself a process.” The exhibition consists of two dozen works ranging from shaped monochrome paintings, screenprints, and acrylic on wood and plexiglass to her White Light, Black Light, and Black Earth series, documenting her changing use of materials as she began incorporating glass microspheres (the material used to reflect light in road markings), hidden Tesla coils to transmit electricity, and argon gas into her work. “I try to bring reality into the painting,” she says in the video. “I try to bring the reality of our moment here on this ball of mud; it’s not that the painting relates to nature but it is nature.”
The work demands, and rewards, viewer engagement in a way that is distinct from that of other artists from the Light and Space movement, which includes James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and Doug Wheeler. Divided into “Beginnings,” “Painting with Light,” “Black Earth, Black Light,” and “New Forms in White Light,” the Whitney show traces Corse’s career and experimental process primarily chronologically as she followed her own path. In 1970, the Berkeley-born artist moved away from Los Angeles to live and work in remote Topanga Canyon, building her own kiln and enjoying a more private life. “Untitled (Two Triangular Columns),” a pair of eight-plus-feet-high white columns with a space between them, echoes such paintings as “Untitled (Hexagonal White)” and “Untitled (White Diamond, Negative Stripe),” which feature a strip running down their centers. An entrancing glowing light emanates from “Untitled (White Light Series)” and “Untitled (Space + Electric Light).” Shapes and colors shift as you make your way around “Untitled (White Grid, Vertical Strokes)” and “Untitled (Horizontal Strokes).” Such 1970s pieces as “Untitled (Black Light Painting)” and “Untitled (Black Earth Series)” offer a stark counterpoint to the white light works. The more recent Inner Band paintings are like optical illusions in subtle motion. Exhibition curator Kim Conaty writes in the catalog, “For Corse, the subjectivity of perception — the acknowledgment that everyone experiences visual phenomena differently — has been a consistent driving force in her artistic practice for more than fifty years.” This survey ably represents Corse’s career, a long overdue exhibition that is, dare we say, illuminating. (In addition, Dia:Beacon has a new gallery of Corse’s work on view through 2021.)
Who: Alexis Rockman
What: Artists on artists talk
Where: Whitney Museum of American Art, Floor 3, Susan and John Hess Family Gallery and Theater, 99 Gansevoort St., 212-570-3600
When: Friday, April 6, $10, 6:30
Why: New York City native Alexis Rockman, who creates fantastical outdoor worlds in his paintings, will be at the Whitney on April 6 at 6:30 to discuss the landscapes of Grant Wood in conjunction with the exhibition “Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables,” which continues at the museum through June 10. The show reveals Wood to be more than just a portraitist who is most famous for “American Gothic”; among his landscapes at the Whitney are Young Corn, Stone City, The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover, and Spring in the Country. Rockman’s “The Great Lakes Cycle” is now on view at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Tickets for the talk, “A Chilling Make Believe: Alexis Rockman on Grant Wood,” are $10; if you can’t get to the Whitney or the event is sold out, it will be livestreamed on YouTube.
Who: Zoe Leonard, Rebecca Solnit
What: Zoe Leonard in Conversation with Rebecca Solnit
Where: Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St., 212-570-3600
When: Friday, March 16, 6:30
Why: In conjunction with the large-scale retrospective “Zoe Leonard: Survey,” which opened March 2 and continues at the Whitney through June 10, New York native Zoe Leonard will sit down with writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit to talk about art, feminism, politics, photography, and landscapes. Don’t worry if the event is already sold out; the Whitney will be live-streaming it on Facebook.
In conjunction with the exhibition Laura Owens, a midcareer survey of the work of the LA-based artist, the Whitney is hosting the immersive multimedia performance [title], by LA dancer, choreographer, and teacher mecca vazie andrews and her company, the MOVEMENT movement. The fifty-minute presentation will feature movement, sound, and projection as andrews responds to Owens’s radical style of painting, exploring freedom, enlightenment, and the future. The performance takes place on February 3 at 4:00, the day before the exhibition closes; tickets are ten dollars in addition to museum admission. Also currently on view at the Whitney are “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined,” “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940-2017,” “Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960,” and “Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966-1986.”
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Wednesday - Monday through October 23, $17-$22
Alexander Calder, kineticism, and the Whitney have been inextricably linked since the institution acquired in May 1982 the Pennsylvania-born artist’s delightful “Calder’s Circus,” which, when on view, is always accompanied by a video showing the work in action. In addition, on rare occasions, it is activated live. The Whitney will be activating many of Calder’s other works in the new exhibition “Calder: Hypermobility,” set in motion at specific times to a specially commissioned sound walk by Jim O’Rourke. Activations, by motor or air, will take place multiple times each day (Monday to Thursday at 12 noon, 2:00, and 4:00; Friday at 12 noon, 2:00, 4:00, 7:30, 8:00, and 9:00; and Saturday and Sunday on the hour from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm). In addition, the Calder Foundation will activate the rarely exhibited “Object with Red Ball” on June 21 at 2:00, “Boomerangs” on June 28 at 2:00, “Tightrope” on July 9 at 4:00, “Goldfish Bowl” on July 12 at 2:00, and two untitled pieces on July 18 and 26 at 2:00, with more to come in August, September, and October. Below is a list of special performances by other artists during the run of the show, some of which require advance tickets.
Wednesday, July 19
Sunday, July 23
Christian Marclay performs Calder’s “Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere” (Calder’s first suspended mobile), with cellist Okkyung Lee, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Saturday, August 5
Sunday, August 6
Jack Quartet, music by Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman, and others, Hurst Family Galleries
Thursday, September 7
Sunday, September 10
Arto Lindsay, noisemakers and rattles, in conjunction with the exhibition “Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium,” Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Thursday, September 28
Jill Magid, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Friday, September 29
Sunday, October 1
Math Bass and Lauren Davis Fisher perform “Quiet Work in Session,” Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Thursday, October 5
Friday, October 6
C. Spencer Yeh, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Saturday, October 7
A screening of films commissioned by the Calder Foundation by artists Ephraim Asili, Rosa Barba, Lucy Raven, Agnès Varda, and others, followed by a conversation moderated by Victoria Brooks, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Friday, October 13
Sunday, October 15
Empire State Works in Progress, with artist Abigail DeVille and director Charlotte Brathwaite, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Friday, October 20
Sunday, October 22
Nora Schultz, Susan and John Hess Family Theater
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Through May 1, $18-$22
Award-winning documentarian, journalist, and former chef Laura Poitras has opened a lot of eyes around the world with such films as Citizenfour, The Oath, and My Country, My Country and her investigative reporting for such outlets as the Guardian, the Washington Post, and the website she started with Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Cahill, the Intercept. The New School graduate is now sharing highly sensitive information about surveillance, drones, Guantánamo Bay Prison, the NSA, and more in a fascinating new way in “Astro Noise,” a five-room immersive installation on view at the Whitney. Poitras, whose Oscar-winning Citizenfour featured whistleblower Edward Snowden, invites viewers into a frightening world that is all too real. In the catalog, Astro Noise: A Survival Guide for Living under Total Surveillance, curator Jay Sanders notes that the title “echoes with associations. Discovered accidentally by astronomers in 1964 and initially thought to be a technical error, astro noise refers to the faint background disturbance of thermal radiation left over after the big bang. . . . More pointedly, Astro Noise is the name Edward Snowden gave to an encrypted file containing evidence of NSA mass surveillance that he shared with Poitras in 2012.” The exhibition begins with selections from her “Anarchist” series, consisting of full-color, large-scale prints of images Poitras created based on documents Snowden gave her of descrambled signals from the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters, including “Israeli Drone Feed (Intercepted February 24, 2009)” and “Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite (Intercepted May 27, 2009).” In the middle of the second room is a thick two-sided screen on which two different films are projected on opposite sides; for O’Say Can You See, Poitras filmed people coming to Ground Zero and looking at the destruction wrought by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, while on the other side is U.S. military footage of 9/11-related interrogations of Said Boujaaida and Salim Hamdan, who both ended up at Guantánamo. In the third room, “Bed Down Location” visitors can lie down on a carpeted raised platform and gaze up at a screen on the ceiling that shows night skies in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, where drone attacks have taken place, as well as the sky at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where drones are tested and flown.
For “Disposition Matrix,” Poitras situates narrow, rectangular viewing peepholes at different heights in six walls; inside are official documents, video interviews, cell-phone footage, screenshots from intercepted drone feeds, and diagrams that deal with various aspects of the War on Terror, including Abu Ghraib prison, definitions of such phrases as “clandestine collection” and “covert action,” and home video of a town in Yemen on two successive days in August 2012, one depicting a wedding, the second the aftermath of a U.S. drone strike. Because of the way the peepholes are arranged, it is difficult to get the full picture of what is inside each slot, evoking how hard it is to get the full story from the government. In the fifth room, Poitras, who participated in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, makes herself the subject, something she specifically avoids in her documentaries, detailing how the U.S. government put her on a secret watchlist, continues to track her, keeps detaining and interrogating her at airports, and considers legal action to arrest her under the Espionage Act. (Meanwhile, she has sued the government.) Poitras adds a little surprise at the end, revealing how any one of us could be next. In a catalog interview with Sanders, Poitras states, “I very much like the idea of creating a space that challenges the viewer as to whether to venture in or not. . . . We live life not knowing what will happen next. What do people do when they’re confronted with choices and risks?” Poitras’s debut art installation does just that, confronting visitors with ideas and information that, unfortunately, might no longer be shocking but still come with alarming choices and risks.