Whitney Museum’s Current New York City-Centric Art Exhibitions

Image of a women in a black skirt wearing and waving giant black gloves

The Whitney Museum may be dedicated to American art as a whole, which was magnficently exemplified this past summer with works by David Hockney and others, this holiday season it sure feels delightfully New York City-centric here on the Upper East Side.

Led by Rituals of Rental Island, a terrific showcase of legendary NYC performance art, and complete with T.J. Wilcox's 360-degree video panorama of the city as seen from a rooftop in Union Square, it seems that the Whitney is spending its last New Year's in its landmark uptown digs with a celebration of NYC's downtown style.     

Robert Indiana's Love exhibition at the Whitney showing pillars with the words "hug", "eat", "die", etc. and signage on the walls saying "eat" and "love"

Robert Indiana Americana Pop Art

The most heavily publicized exhibition at the Whitney Museum is a Robert Indiana retrospective. Indiana, though not from New York (he renamed himself after his home state), is responsibile for a New York iconic sculpture, LOVE, which has been a midtown photo-op fixture for years. Indiana's woodcutty, faux Americana pop art has never really resonated with me, though I did like a couple of his earlier pieces in this exhibition and his later work, when he used sans-serif type. But don't let me discourage you….the New York Times calls the show "shockingly exciting", so check it out for yourself.

Jared Bark's piece at the Whitney of a manikin wearing a suit and strings of lit light bulbs

NYC's Rituals of Rental Island Art

What I DID find pretty thrilling at the Whitney is Rituals of Rental Island, a wild, messy, often amusing overview of NYC performance art from the early 1970s, when the likes of Laurie Anderson, John Zorn and dozens of other artists who didn't become famous–like Silvia Palacios Whitman, at top, and Jared Bark, above–transformed abandoned storefronts, unfinished lofts and other "alternative spaces" into fantastic, secret spectacles of dance, theater, music, or some combination thereof. It's always difficult to convey the urgency of such pieces in a museum show, but by segmenting the museum's third floor into mini-installations, the Whitney does a good job of recreating some of the visceral punch of that era.        

Image of people at the Whitney looking at T.J. Wilcox's 360 degree video panorama of the city

T.J Wilcox's Parnoamic Video Installation of NYC

Finally, there's T.J. Wilcox's panoramic video installation, "Up In the Air." Filmed from the roof of Wilcox's studio high above Union Square, this 360-degree, "cinema in the round" installation offers a fascinating portrait of a single NYC day (clouds and rooftops edition), time-lapsed down to 30 minutes. And lest things get too meditative, Wilcox breaks into the scene with historical tidbits (artistically, amusingly rendered) inspired by the sights, like Andy Warhol greeting the pope-mobile, and the semi-annual phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge. 

A section of Robert Indiana's Whitney exhibition with numbers and words in bright colors on the walls and pillars with wheels

More Information: The Whitney Exhibitions

The Robert Indiana show runs through January 5; Rituals of Rental Island through February 2; Up In the Air through February 9. The Whitney is located on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, and is open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. See more information about the Whitney's exhibitions online!


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