Longing for a spin through 20th-century American Art? How about an instructional class about making pottery? A stream of experimental video art?
While the Whitney Museum of American Art may be locked tight during the COVID-19 outbreak, the institution has been busy expanding its virtual offerings — opening up an array of materials for art lovers and students of all ages to “Whitney from Home.”
For a self-guided tour of the Whitney’s digital holdings, their online collection serves as a good starting place, with more than 25,000 works available to peruse at any time of the day. Viewers can browse the entire collection, presented as a series of images, or toggle to see only what is on view (a feature particularly helpful for those who have the Whitney’s floor plan etched into their brain). A curated experience can also be had via a virtual stroll through the museum’s archive of exhibitions, which spans 15 years.
Of note is the digital presentation of “Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art.” Thoughtfully organized, the online exhibition weaves through artworks, videos, essays audio guides and photography to elucidate Mexico’s evolving relationship to art and social justice after the country’s revolution in 1920. Featuring 200 works by 60 Mexican and American artists, the exhibition aims to demonstrate how Mexican muralists — including leading figures such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros — influenced art in the United States.
An illuminating essay by curator Barbara Haskell details this history, noting that the influence of Mexican muralists who visited the United States between the late 1920s and 1940 “would prove decisive for American artists searching for alternatives to European modernism and seeking to connect with a public deeply shaken by the onset of the Great Depression and the economic and social injustices exposed by the collapse of the U.S. stock market.”
Particularly suited for this aesthetic moment, the museum’s “Artport” serves as a landing space for internet art and a gallery of commissioned net and new media works. Among the entries is a piece by artists Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain, who created a fictional listing for a ginormous New York City apartment, which stretches across the five boroughs.
The mega-apartment eats up data from an aggregated list of real ads, siphoning the results into galleries with thousands of photos. Indexed into three columns, the information for the building (listed at $43,869,676,331) reads like a familiar poem: “The apartment also comes with 1 parking spot./ The apartment also comes with 2 storage bins in the basement./ The apartment also comes with a large storage cage in the basement./ The apartment also comes with a storage area, through wall AC and washer dryer.”
For a more high-touch (so to speak) experience, patrons can also take part in the museum’s educational offerings. Launched last week, “Art History from Home” presents a series of virtual talks, hosted by the Whitney’s Joan Tisch Teaching Fellows. Centered on the museum’s collection, the online sessions walk viewers through American art topics spanning 1900 to the present. Each lesson lasts for 30 minutes and features a moderated chat.
Following this same format, “Artmaking from Home” encourages viewers to “consider the relationship between art-making and domestic spaces” through a raft of virtual classes. The next session lands online May 2 at 3 p.m. in the form of a DIY pottery lesson and will find inspiration in the works of Betty Woodman and Arlene Shechet. Materials will be mixed from everyday household items for Saturday’s event.
To immerse yourself even further into the artwork held at the museum, the “Whitney Kids Art Challenge” serves as an activity-based window. Though the sessions are created with children in mind, prompts such as “Drawing Instructions,” which leads participants through a Sol Lewitt-inspired sketch session, are fodder for anyone who is looking to keep their artistic mind engaged.
The museum also hosts a series of video art livestreams every Friday at 7 p.m. Cohered under the title “Whitney Screens,” the series of films presents a range of works — including Alex Da Corte’s “Rubber Pencil Devil” (2018), Clarissa Tossin’s “Ch’u Mayaa” (2017) and Juan Antonio Olivares’s “Moléculas” (2017). The program continues May 1 with Korakrit Arunanondchai’s “Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3” (2015), which muses on documentation, connectedness and the dissemination of knowledge.
More information about how to “Whitney from Home” can be found here.
Top Image: Liza Lou, "Kitchen," which was part of the exhibition "Making Knowing: Craft in Art." Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art.