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Indepth Arts News:

"Visions from America: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1940-2000"
2002-06-27 until 2002-09-22
Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, NY, USA

Beginning June 27, 2002, the Whitney Museum of American Art will present its first full-scale exhibition of photographs drawn entirely from the Museum's own permanent collection. With more than 150 American photographs made from 1950 to the present, Visions from America spotlights works that express a quintessentially American sensibility. The works are by established as well as emerging artists, and have been collected by the Whitney over the past 11 years, since the Museum began collecting photography. The exhibition will run through the summer on the Museum's second floor.

Curator Sylvia Wolf's selection focuses on artists who live and work in this country. Portraits, landscapes, street photographs, and genre subjects will be featured, including works by Vito Acconci, Diane Arbus, Matthew Barney, Dawoud Bey, Nancy Burson, Kristin Capp, Sarah Charlesworth, Chuck Close, Roy DeCarava, William Eggleston, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Louise Lawler, Vera Lutter, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiselas, Shirin Neshat, Catherine Opie, Dennis Oppenheim, Lucas Samaras, Cindy Sherman, Chris Verene, and Carrie Mae Weems.

"In moving forward after September 11, we gain immensely by turning to artists to understand our past and envision our future," said Maxwell L. Anderson, Director of the Whitney. "As a museum devoted to American art and artists, the Whitney is a vital repository for art embodying the American character. With this show of superb photographs from our collection, we are able to call upon our inner resources and see America through the eyes of some of our best photographers."

"Since the publication of Robert Frank's landmark book, The Americans, in 1959, photography has been the medium of choice for artists portraying American culture," said Sylvia Wolf, the Whitney's Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography. "From the street photographs of the 1950s and 1960s, to the postmodern imagery of the 1980s, from photography addressing identity politics in the early 1990s, to the new imaging technologies of today, photography has been at the forefront of artistic innovation in America. The camera's ability to mark time and document important events makes it vital to recording social change. Photography is the ultimate reflection of who we are, how we live, and what we believe."

Photography has been part of the Whitney Museum's exhibition history for more than 25 years, with photographs most often seen in the Museum's Biennial exhibitions of contemporary art. Photographers Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cindy Sherman, for example, participated in Whitney Biennials during the 1970s and 1980s, and were later given one-person retrospectives at the Museum.

A determined effort to collect photographic art began in 1991, when Sondra Gilman Gonzalez-Falla, a Whitney Trustee and longtime photography collector, founded an acquisitions committee devoted to the purchase of 20th-century photography. The collection now numbers some 1,900 works. In 1998 the Whitney furthered its commitment to photography with the formation of a curatorial department of photography and the inauguration of the Sondra Gilman Gallery, a space exclusively devoted to the exhibition of photography. In addition to the ongoing presence of photography in the Sondra Gilman Gallery, the Whitney continues to present special exhibitions of photographic works.

With the appointment in 1999 of Sylvia Wolf, the Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, the Whitney has concentrated its efforts to collect, preserve and exhibit photographs by 20th- and 21st-century American photographers. The museum's mission in photography is to build a collection that reflects the complexity and diversity of American art, as well as to encourage acquisitions that enhance the Whitney's holdings of works in other media.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is the leading advocate of 20th - and 21st-century American art. Founded in 1930, the Museum's holdings have grown to include nearly 13,000 works of art representing more than 1,900 artists. The Permanent Collection is the preeminent collection of 20th-century American art and includes the entire artistic estate of Edward Hopper, as well as significant works by Marsh, Calder, Gorky, Hartley, O'Keeffe, Rauschenberg, Reinhardt, and Johns, among other artists.

Vera Lutter, Pepsi Cola, Long Island City, IV: May 19, 1998.
Unique camera obscura gelatin silver print,
55 1/4 x 123 in. (140.3 x 312.4 cm).
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
Purchase, with funds form the Photography Committee 2000.219.

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