Whitney Museum of American Art

Review 1 :

Really boring.

The museum is located inside an unattractive dark cube of a building. It looks like a box of concrete. The most interesting floor is probably the 5th floor where I saw 2-3 Georgia O’Keefe paintings, and a few by Edward Hopper. Other than that, the rest of the paintings did not interest or stand out to me.

The fourth floor had a temporary exhibit by Jay DeFeo with some large esoteric art pieces. The third floor had some strange exhibits in the center of the rooms – I saw a pile of coal on the ground with some grand pianos turned on it’s side, a shopping car bound with cord with a sprinkled blue sand circle around it, a video shelf with books on it…plus some other forgettable exhibits.

On the second floor, there was a musician playing live music in a darkened room with a crowd of people congregated around him.

I don’t recommend the Whitney. The art did not move me.


Review 2:

The Whitney is difficult to review. On one hand, the current Hopper exhibit is fantastic, but on the other hand, the rest of the exhibits, including the pieces from their permanent collection are quite substandard in terms of overall importance (yes, there is a Jasper Johns and a Basquiat on display, but there are better examples elsewhere in the city). Currently, the only truly spectacular paintings on the fifth floor are Hopper’s wonderful self portrait and Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Calico Flower (which is one of her near monochromatic works, with only a hint of green in the background of the composition). I guess that The Whitney is what it is, and lives or dies on its temporary installations.

To me, the real treat is the building itself, which is a Marcel Breuer, and as such, provokes as much praise as condemnation. I love Breuer’s work and adore that monolithic, sparse Bauhaus aesthetic. Indeed, Breuer’s soulless Modernism is just what most artists deserve, and the Whitney is ideal at showing exactly what happens when relatively mediocre minds try to compete against an absolute titan of design. The paintings and mutlimedia pieces retreat into the background and are overwhelmed by Breuer’s genius. What possible chance does a group of minor works by Elie Nadelman have against such a structure? The bare spaces are sometimes more impressive than any possible installations, which is something that Robert Irwin’s Scrim Veil makes so very concrete (be sure to see it before it leaves on September 1, 2013).

True story: my son and my date stood for five minutes staring at a work in The Whitney and then asked me what it meant. I replied: it’s the flipping window for heaven’s sake. You’re both staring at the window.