Aleksandra Mir

Rotating at The Whitney

By Carol Vogel
The New York Times, New York, July 2011

'Singular Visions', the exhibition that opened on the fifth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art in December, was conceived as a way of seeing work from the museum’s collection that had not been on view for decades or had been out of fashion but seemed fresh again.

In its first iteration the show included 12 works, each in its own space, by artists like Robert Grosvenor, Eva Hesse and Gary Simmons. One work, The Wait, a 1964-65 tableau by the installation artist Edward Kienholz, featured an old woman fashioned from cow bones sitting in an armchair with a stuffed cat on her lap and a live blue parakeet named Peetie perched nearby.

Peetie became a star, attracting scores of bird lovers, but in March, Peetie and The Wait were no longer on view. (Peetie was adopted by a Whitney staff member and now lives not far from the museum.) The installation was replaced by Woman With a Camera (35mm), a 2009 sequence of 35-millimeter slides by Anne Collier.

As of Friday 'Singular Visions' changes yet again. Half the works that were on view in December have been replaced with art that was languishing in storage or is new to the museum, either a gift or a recent acquisition.

“The impulse behind ‘Singular Visions’ is to keep calling attention to our collection,” said Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s chief curator. “We are not only rediscovering forgotten masterpieces but also giving artists of our own time the opportunity to be seen in a highly focused manner.”

In place of Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1958 painting Ladder to the Moon hangs de Kooning’s Yellow River, executed the same year. This is the first time the painting has been shown at the museum. It is a recent promised gift from Betty Ann Besch Solinger, the widow of David M. Solinger, who was president of the Whitney’s board from 1966 to 1974.

The new iteration of the show also includes the work of a younger generation of artists. Two drawings by Aleksandra Mir, called Osama, from 2007, are from her larger installation called Newsroom, 1986-2000, composed of handmade blowups of front pages from The New York Post and The Daily News. The drawings replace A A Bronson’s Felix Partz, June 5, 1994, a canvas depicting the artist’s colleague and collaborator dying of AIDS.

Ms. De Salvo has also swapped Step in the Arena (The Essentialist Trap), Mr. Simmons’s empty boxing ring from 1994, for Matthew Day Jackson’s Sepulcher (Viking Burial Ship), from 2004. In Sepulcher Mr. Jackson has created a ship from found objects as well as materials scavenged from his studio and home, including remnants of his old paintings.

'Singular Visions' is on view through November. Whether it will stay the way it is now is anyone’s guess.