America Is Hard to See

I was back in New York for a few days at the beginning of this month, and fortunately, my time in the city happened to coincide with the reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art. I, somewhat ashamedly, had never been to the Whitney before, and made it a priority to withstand the long lines and ‘blistering heat’ to get inside.

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Right off the bat: I cannot recommend this exhibition enough! The building is a masterpiece, and it’s opening is a true moment in New York history. Given such a momentous occasion, the curators at the Whitney could not have done a better job at offering an all-encompassing view into the progression of 21st century American art, or better yet, visual history.

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Organized chronologically with different floors representing different intervals of time, the gallery spaces are then subdivided thematically, offering viewers an extremely concise and logical understanding of the contexts surrounding each work’s creation. Covering themes like turn of the century industrialization, civil rights, mid-century commercialization, the Vietnam war and the AIDS epidemic, the exhibition truly does become a historical experience, with the energy of being there for the opening weekend truly playing into that.

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My only criticism would be a slight lack of thematic sophistication, but given the fact that such a large time period is being covered, and again, that this is a focus on history, it quickly becomes clear that this was not intended to be a highly sophisticated exhibition. While the pieces may sometimes read as selections from an Art History textbook, that ends up becoming the beauty of the experience, and for that, it’s extremely successful.

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All photos by me.

x Syd

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