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American Legends: From Calder to O’Keeffe and T.J. Wilcox: In the Air at the Whitney Museum of American Art

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American Legends: From Calder to O’Keeffe
T.J. Wilcox: In the Air
(Legends Web Page)
(Wilcox Web Page)

At the
Whitney Museum
of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
at 75th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 570-3600

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 3, 2013

(Assisted by Whitney Press Notes).

On a lovely fall Sunday, I walked the expanse of Madison Avenue uptown, stopping by the Whitney. I caught two exhibits and took my time. I began on the fifth floor at the “American Legends: Calder to O’Keeffe” exhibit, with several rooms showcasing a rotating array of artists, who worked in America from 1900-1950. Those artists I focused on were Oscar Bluemner, Charles Burchfield, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Elie Nadelman, Gaston Lachaise, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The exhibit is curated by Barbara Haskell. I was taken by Jacob Lawrence’s 1942 painting called “Tombstones”, showing sad dark figures in tenement windows and on the steps, plus a mother with babies, lonely on the sidewalk, selling tombstones. Oscar Bluemner’s 1929 “Last Evening of the Year” has thick, uncluttered brushstrokes, with a deep red sky and blue snow, a hazy full moon and wooden cabin.

Edward Hopper’s 1921 “New York Interior” shows a young woman, from a rear view, in the privacy of a room with a mantelpiece and clock, dressed in an evening gown, with long, brunette hair falling on her shoulders. Hopper's 1925-30 "Self Portrait" gives his clean shaven face and wide-brimmed hat a detached, introspective aura. Stuart Davis’ 1931 “House and Street” is filled with painted cubes, some textured for brick or cobblestone, others solid, like painted stucco or cement, with boarded windows and an airplane that resembles a four-leaf clover. Georgia O’Keefe’s 1924 “Flower Abstraction” has muted shades of peach, blue, yellow, and grey. The petals open endlessly like a Rorschach test. The exhibit also has mezzanine level rooms with giant Calder sculptures and an archival film of Calder’s circus puppets and glass cabinets of his figures. Gaston Lachaise’s 1912-27, bronze “Standing Woman” is a massive and imposing figure.

On the second floor is a one-room, panoramic film installation, by T.J. Wilcox, called “In the Air.” I had to bend down under the fully round installation to enter its circular New York City skyline. Once inside, it’s hard to leave, emotionally that is, as it’s mesmerizing. The 360-degree views of Manhattan, photographed from Wilcox’ apartment, above Union Square, is a filmatic experience, as the skyline changes in tone and coloration, cloud formations and smoke rising, as the sun sets and later rises. Obviously the film’s clock runs faster than the viewing time. In addition to the shifting circular panorama, sections of the film sequentially block out for a filmed narrative about New York. For example, an archival movie of trans-Atlantic zeppelins shows newsreel of the disaster, a biographical photo montage of Gloria Vanderbilt unfolds, Manhattanhenge emerges in full sunset, and a building super relates a tale from the roof of his building of witnessing the falling World Trade Center towers. This exhibit was curated by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz.

You can check current and future exhibits at the Whitney here.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Flower Abstraction", 1924
Oil on canvas, 48 × 30 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
50th Anniversary Gift of Sandra Payson 85.47

Oscar Bluemner, "Last Evening of the Year", c. 1929.
Oil on academy board mounted on wood panel, 13 3/4 × 9 3/4 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
Gift of Juliana Force 31.115

Edward Hopper, "Self Portrait", 1925-30.
Oil on canvas, 25 1/4 × 20 5/8 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1165

T. J. Wilcox (b. 1965), still from "In the Air", 2013.
Panoramic film installation:
Super 8 film transferred to video and HD video,
black-and-white and color, silent; 35 min., looped.
Collection of the artist; Courtesy Metro Pictures.
Image courtesy the artist

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at