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2002 Biennial
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2002 Biennial

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

The Whitney Museum of American Art will present the work of 113 artists and collaborative teams in the 2002 Biennial Exhibition, the largest Biennial since 1981. Most of the Museum will be taken over by the Biennial: it will fill the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, as well as the Museums Sculpture Court, stairwell, main elevator, and Lobby Gallery, which will be transformed into a sound installation room. For the first time, several Biennial pieces will be presented in Central Park.

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Largest Biennial since 1981

Works by 113 artists and collaborative teams to be exhibited Largest representation ever of sound, performance, architecture, and Internet art First presentation of Biennial works in Central Park, organized together with Public Art Fund Second Bucksbaum Award recipient to be named

The Whitney Museum of American Art will present the work of 113 artists and collaborative teams in the 2002 Biennial Exhibition, the largest Biennial since 1981, opening March 7, 2002. The Museums signature survey of contemporary American art, the show will run through May 26, 2002. Most of the Museum will be taken over by the Biennial: it will fill the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, as well as the Museums Sculpture Court, stairwell, main elevator, and Lobby Gallery, which will be transformed into a sound installation room. For the first time, in conjunction with the Public Art Fund, several Biennial pieces will be presented in Central Park.

The 113 artists and collaborative teams in the exhibition represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and sensibilities. Established artists, like sculptor Kiki Smith, painter Vija Celmins, filmmaker Ken Jacobs, and composer Meredith Monk, will be shown alongside numerous artists who are less well known. The exhibition includes the largest representation of architecture, sound art, performance art, and Internet art ever presented in a Biennial.

The chief curator of the 2002 Biennial is Lawrence Rinder, the Whitney's Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator of Contemporary Art, who developed the exhibition in collaboration with three of his Whitney colleagues: Chrissie Iles, curator of film and video, chose works to be shown in the Museum's Kaufman Astoria Studios Film and Video Gallery; Internet-based art works were selected by Christiane Paul, adjunct curator of new media arts; and performance and sound art by Debra Singer, associate curator of contemporary art.

The curators traveled to 43 towns and cities in 27 states and to Puerto Rico to view works; artists born in 23 countries, working in 20 states and Puerto Rico, and ranging in age from 24 to 71, will be included in the show.

"The 2002 Biennial pays tribute to the spirit and variety of American artistic practice throughout the country," said Lawrence Rinder, the chief curator of the exhibition. "Artists are exploring a wide range of media and new technologies that are giving them previously unimagined freedoms. At the same time there is a resurgent interest in traditional media and visceral, do-it-yourself practices. Not restricted by a single theme, the Biennial will expose multiple, sometimes conflicting currents, as well as extraordinary works that fall outside of any conventional aesthetic definition."

The 2002 Biennial is the 71st in the series of Annuals and Biennials inaugurated by Whitney Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932.

From quilts and stained glass to Internet art, range of work includes painting, installation, photography, film and video projections, architecture, sound and performance art

Contemporary American art continues to be enlivened by the arrival of artists from around the world and the travels of artists abroad. Among the artists in the 2002 Biennial are AA Bronson, the last surviving member of the influential Canadian art group General idea, now transplanted to New York and working on his own; Chan Chao, who took photographs on trips to his native country, the former Burma (now officially Myanmar), of displaced Burmese refugees and pro-democracy insurgents in border camps; and Stephen Dean, whose video work, Pulse (2001), captures the annual Indian festival of Holi, in Uttar Pradeshan explosion of color shot as ecstatic celebrants toss handfuls of multi-colored pigment into the air and onto each others bodies.

The exhibition includes art in a wide array of media, including work by the Destroy All Monsters Collective, whose eye-popping billboard-sized paintings memorialize the unique legacy of Detroit's local music and television culture of the 1970's; Omer Fast, whose synchronized two-channel video installation views a range of homes in Glendive, Montana, the country's smallest television market, while incorporating the artist's remarkable sound effects; and Ken Feingold, whose double-headed If/Then (2001) places side-by-side two robot heads capable of listening and responding to each other.

Another collective, Forcefield (Meerk Puffy, Patootie Lobe, Le Geef, and Gorgon Radeo), a Providence-based artist group, creates much of their work, including printmaking, costume design, installation, video, film and live musical performance, out of found materials and industrial refuse; Luis Gispert combines the flash of inner-city hip-hop with elements of Renaissance religious art, taking as his photographic subjects women of various ethnicities dressed in generic cheerleader uniforms and adorned with gold jewelry; Trenton Doyle Hancock, shown in the last Biennial as well, makes work that explores a personal mythology of epic dimensions, with forest-dwelling organisms, half-animal and half-plant, as key characters; and Evan Holloway is part of a new generation of Los Angeles artists with a rekindled interest in creating abstract sculpture.

In The Holy Artwork (2001), Christian Jankowski blurs the distinctions between the staged and the real. Working with a Baptist televangelist, he creates a video that is at once a work of art and an authentic, broadcast sermon, shot and edited in full cooperation with the Harvest Fellowship Church and televised on a local San Antonio cable access station. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Yun-Fei Ji, who grew up in Southern China, practices the ancient art of traditional ink brush painting. Ji's large-scale painting Dinner at the Forbidden City (2001) deals with the British army's occupation of Beijing's Forbidden City at the conclusion of the Opium Wars (1839-60).

Margaret Kilgallen, who passed away from cancer earlier this year, was part of a circle of San Francisco artists whose work is rooted in mural painting, graffiti and tramp art, and underground comics. Much of her work was made with discarded materials, including scraps of wood and leftover house paint. Acclaimed in the Whitney's BitStreams exhibition, Robert Lazzarini creates sculptures that begin as 3-D computer files, are subjected to a series of mathematical distortions, then fabricated from original materials into works that confound our senses.

Conor McGrady, a native of Northern Ireland, draws on his experiences of living in that strife-torn region to create his drawings, executed in watercolor, gouache and compressed charcoal, which capture the tension of daily life in Belfast; Hirsch Perlman, sequestering himself in an unused room in his home in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles, has recorded almost daily performances, witnessed only by his camera, in which he uses tape and cardboard boxes to create mysterious figures that occupy the room with him; Judith Schaechter makes artwork that is meticulously crafted from pieces of glass that are cut, sandblasted, fired and soldered together into a kaleidoscopic array of color and shapes; and aspects of Chemi Rosado Seijo's multimedia project range from impromptu transformation of daily newspapers and existing commercial street signage to the re-mixing and re-broadcast of live radio programs, to the digital scrambling of television signals.

Gerry Snyder's multi-panel oil painting tells the Biblical story of Lot and his daughters; Rosie Lee Tompkins' quilt works range in size from barely a foot square to over ten feet long and are typically made of velvet, cotton and polyester; the watercolors by the architect Lauretta Vinciarelli depict spaces occupied by light; the paintings of Ouattara Watts are amalgams of abstract surfaces, found objects, photographs, painted texts and numbers; Peter Williams' paintings are layered with interrelated images and forms that combine to suggest the subtle experience of human perception and identity.

Among the architecture projects included for the first time in a Biennial are the works of architect Lebbeus Woods. Called Terrains, these pieces represent artificial landscapes, neither buildings nor stable structures, embodying a notion of built form that is in synch with the unpredictable transformations of the human and natural world.

In a first-time effort, organized together with the Public Art Fund, the Biennial will move outdoors to Central Park. Five major artist's projects, including four specially commissioned works, will be shown in the park. These projects, by Keith Edmier, Kim Sooja, Roxy Paine, Kiki Smith, and Brian Tolle, take advantage of the unique natural and social dimensions of the park to present works that are intended as surprising encounters in the flow of daily life. Roxy Paine's sculpture, for example, is a striking, 50-foot tall, shiny metal tree, while Brian Tolle's project involves a series of uncanny and unexpected splashes in one of the park's many ponds. Keith Edmier's work is a monument to the World War II military service of his two grandfathers. Kiki Smith presents a group of bronze Sirens and Harpies, creatures that are part-bird and part-woman, at the Central Park Zoo, and Kim Sooja will present a new performative work.

Also offsite, located in a private apartment on Spring Street in Soho, the Salon de Fleurus recreates the legendary Paris salon of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Open to the public since 1992, during limited hours, and during the Biennial by appointment, the salon is the work of a group of anonymous artists. The notion of the salon as a museum of Modernism is being transported to the Whitney in the form of a display case presenting various elements of the Spring Street salon, in the manner of a 16th-century curiosity cabinet.

Among the better-known artists in the exhibition are the Latvian-born artist Vija Celmins, subject of a one-artist show at the Whitney in 1995, a visionary of the natural world whose latest work explores the beauty of spider webs; Vera Lutter, known for her large-scale photographs of urban and industrial scenes; Christian Marclay, an influential figure in the experimental music scene since the 1970s, whose sculpture, video and installation work has been mainly concerned with the relationship of image to sound; Collier Schorr, whose photography has been engaged for many years with landscape and portraiture and the ways these classic genres are molded by gender, sexuality and nationality, and here works with a young German schoolboy to reconstruct the entirety of Andrew Wyeth's controversial Helga series; Lorna Simpson, better known for her photography, who has also produced a significant body of film and video work, and here presents a video grid of 15 mouths humming the great Rodgers and Hart tune Easy to Remember as interpreted by John Coltrane; and Kiki Smith, whose figurative sculptures evoke an ancient world of supernatural beings.

The Biennial also includes works by José Alvarez, Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin, Jeremy Blake, Javier Cambre, Jim Campbell, Vincent Fecteau, Janine Gordon, Rachel Harrison, Tim Hawkinson, Arturo Herrera, Chris Johanson, John Leaños, Ari Marcopoulos, Julie Moos, Erwin Redl, The Rural Studio, Peter Sarkisian, Chris Ware, Anne Wilson, and John Zurier.

Largest representation ever of film, video, Internet art, sound and performance art
The 2002 Biennial Exhibition film and video selections include work by well-known artists such as Peggy Ahwesh, Robert Beavers, Peter Campus, Dennis Hopper, Peter Hutton, Ken Jacobs, Andrew Noren, Keith Sanborn, and Steina (formerly Steina Vasulka), as well as work by less-known makers such as Bosmat Alon and Tirtza Even, Irit Batsry, Zoe Beloff, Susan Black, Tony Cokes, Robert Fenz, Glen Fogel, Brian Frye, David Gatten, Joe Gibbons, Alfred Guzzetti, Diane Kitchen, Mark LaPore, Bruce McClure, Leighton Pierce, Seth Price, Luis Recoder, silt (Keith Evans, Christian Farrell, Jeff Warrin), Stom Sogo, Phil Solomon, Scott Stark, and Fred Worden.

"This year's Biennial will reflect two strong parallel and, in some cases, intertwined strands in current film and videomaking," said Chrissie Iles, curator of film and video. "On the one hand, we see an embrace of the latest digital forms and, on the other, an engagement with hand-made film processes, film performance, and early forms of film projection. This year's program will reflect a range of different themes and genres, including non-traditional documentary, animation, narrative and abstract cinema, works in 3-D, as well as works that involve the maker's presence and active participation during exhibition."

In a new video, She Puppet (2001), Peggy Ahwesh explores female sexuality and power as she looks at the quintessential contemporary fantasy woman, Lara Croft of Tomb Raider; Irit Batsry's first feature film, digitally produced and edited, is set in Southern India, and shifts between documentary, experimental narrative and personal essay; Robert Beavers, who has been making films since the late 1960s and trained with his longtime partner Gregory Markopoulos, will present his recent film The Ground (2001), shot on the Greek island of Hydra, a paean to the beauty of a stonemason's body, a ruined tower, and the landscape; in Heaven on Earth (2001), Susan Black depicts the hyper-reality of American suburbia; Tony Cokes pays homage to the work of Dan Graham and Richard Serra in his videotape 2@ (2000), made with the band SWIPE, of which he is a member; and in their collaboration, Tirtza Even and Bosmat Alon address the highly charged subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Kayam Al Hurbano (Existing on Its Ruins) (1999), shot at a Palestinian refugee camp near Beth-Lehem, and in the surroundings of Hebron.

Brian Frye's film, Oona's Veil (2000), a home-processed, handmade work, revises Charlie Chaplin's screen test of his adolescent soon-to-be spouse, Oona O'Neill, the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill; Joe Gibbons' sardonic autobiographical super-8 film and video diaries are an existential digest of his neuroses; using a hand-made camera-less process in which conventional photographic techniques are replaced by physical marking on celluloid, David Gatten's work explores the materiality of language and the relationship between printed text and the moving image; trained as an architect, Bruce McClure makes works about the time-based, three-dimensional properties of light and projection; and in Angel Beach (2001), Scott Stark uses anonymous 3-D photographs from the 1970s of bikini-clad women on the beaches of Northern California, editing his appropriated images in the camera, and exploring the space between the still and the moving image.

Internet art returns
Internet art, which made its first Biennial appearance in the 2000 show, will again be exhibited. Christiane Paul, adjunct curator of new media arts, noted, "Internet-based art has become a broad medium, comprising artistic practices that range from narrative and time-based work to net activism/hacktivism, tele-robotics, and work that redefines browser conventions. The Biennial selection is intended to give an impression of the variety of forms that net art can take and the multiple themes that have emerged over the years, including data visualization and mapping, database aesthetics, gaming paradigms, networked communities, agent technology, and nomadic devices. The Internet is now used by artists in such a variety of waysas a component to an installation, as a data feed for work that exists only on a hard drive, or as a delivery mechanism that the term net art' or Web-based art' is in constant flux. The Biennial selections will reflect that flux."

Internet artists to be shown are James Buckhouse (with Holly Brubach), Mary Flanagan, Benjamin Fry, Lisa Jevbratt/C5, Yael Kanarek, John Klima, Margot Lovejoy, Mark Napier, Robert Nideffer, and Josh On & Futurefarmers.

The animated characters of the project by James Buckhouse, Tap (2002), made with Holly Brubach, take on a life of their own, taking lessons, rehearsing and giving recitals on the Internet and on individual users' Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and desktops; Mary Flanagan's work is a networked computer application that creates a visible, virtual collective unconscious, collecting bits and pieces of data from users' hard drives; the core of Yael Kanarek's World of Awe (2000) is formed by a journal, found on an old laptop in the desert, that is made up of an original narrative using the ancient genre of the traveler's tale to explore the virtual world through connections between storytelling, travel, memory, and technology.

John Klima's EARTH (2001) is a geo-spatial visualization system, representing a broad range of information about our planet in multiple data layers; Margot Lovejoy's Turns (2001), made with Hal Eagar, Jon Legere, Marek Walczak and participants, is a community-building Web site focused on the idea of collecting and sharing the story of a turning point in one's life; and They Rule (2001), by Josh On & Futurefarmers, investigates corporate power-relationships in the US, creating a site that allows users to browse through maps that are directories to some of the most powerful American companies.

Sound art and performance art in largest representation ever The Biennial will include performances throughout the exhibition by the performance and sound artists, in the galleries and Sculpture Court, as well as offsite. The sound and performance pieces, including several that combine both at once, include works by Maryanne Amacher, Archive (Chris Kubick and Anne Walsh), Gregor Asch (DJ Olive the Audio Janitor), Karin Campbell, Richard Chartier, Gogol Bordello, Miranda July, Meredith Monk, Tracie Morris, William Pope.L, Praxis (Brainard Carey and Delia Bajo), Walid Ra'ad/The Atlas Group, Marina Rosenfeld, Stephen Vitiello, and Zhang Huan.

Sound pieces will be presented in the Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Lobby Gallery in a specially designed "surround sound" installation room, an environment for sound immersion. Biennial sound pieces range from minimalist compositions to language-based narrative works to instrumental experimentations to works based on site-recordings, including a piece done by Stephen Vitiello that is a soundscape (created beginning in 1999, while he was participating in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's artist-in-residence program), in which he recorded sound from his 91st floor studio in the World Trade Center.

"Previous Biennials have included sound art and performance pieces, but this year we are stepping up our commitment to these areas with a concentrated selection from around the country that will resonate closely with the works in other media," said Debra Singer, associate curator of contemporary art. "Sound art in particular is an area that has grown exponentially over the past two years, which makes this the right moment to provide a significant place for it in the Biennial."

"A number of performance works seem to be coming from a younger generation strongly influenced by Fluxus," noted Singer. "The works often involve political content, several reflecting immigrant perspectives, and they often address issues of vulnerability and endurance."

Among the sound artists in the Biennial is Archive, a Los Angeles-based collaboration between Chris Kubick and Anne Walsh that gives a "voice" to deceased artists, interviewing them through séances conducted by professional psychics. Their Biennial work, Art After Death: Joseph Cornell (2001-02) will present a CD of posthumous interviews with Cornell done in private séances in the Museum's galleries and outside of the artist's former home in Queens.

In her multi-channel sound installation for the 2002 Biennial, Maryanne Amacher dynamically circulates the sound around the room, allowing listeners to perceive the spatial dimensions and sensorial presence of acoustic experience. A pioneering figure in the international experimental DJ scene, Gregor Asch (DJ Olive the Audio Janitor), mixes recordings of ordinary urban noises with samples of existing music and creating highly distinctive audio collages that cross musical genres. Marina Rosenfeld's new sound installation for the Biennial is composed from recorded traces of live performances by her sheer frost orchestra project, a group of women who make music with nail polish bottles while kneeling before their floor-bound stringed instruments. Miranda July will be represented by a video interweaving four unsettling plots, and by a sound installation using fragments of conversation, music and sound effects, which will play in the Museum's main elevator.

For her Biennial piece, Karin Campbell explores the dynamics of social interactions, sitting still in a chair in the middle of a gallery with her eyes closed, cartoon-like eyes boldly painted on her eyelids, ignored or engaged by the visitors around her; the performance group Gogol Bordello combines eclectic sounds, ritualistic acts and circus antics, staging theatrical music events with chaotic abandon and creating a genre they describe as "Ukrainian gypsy punk cabaret"; and Tracie Morris, a multi-disciplinary performance poet, blends traditional literary forms, including haiku, with popular musical forms like hip-hop, funk, rock, jazz and ambient music. A key figure on the scene since the early 1990s, Morris will present a new sound poem, composed for the Biennial.

Praxis (Delia Bajo and Brainard Carey), a two-person art and performance collaborative, uses their storefront East Village studio to stage weekly afternoon events, offering such services as foot washes, hugs, Band-Aid applications, and gifts of one-dollar bills. Through direct, intimate interactions with the public, their New Economy Project (1999-2002) recalls the activities of the Fluxus artists, who staged simple events aimed at erasing the boundaries between art and life.

Two artists who also make extraordinary use of their own bodies will be part of the exhibition. William Pope.L has enacted more than 40 performances he calls Crawl pieces in such cities as Boston, Budapest, and Prague. For the Biennial, he embarks on his longest crawl to date, which will take five years, conducted in segments. Dressed in a capeless Superman suit and with an ergonomic skateboard that allows him to rest on his back while traveling forward, he will trek 22 miles, starting at the Statue of Liberty and traversing the entire length of Manhattan along Broadway, ending at the far side of the University Heights bridge in the Bronx. Zhang Huan draws on personal experience to stage physically arduous performances that use the naked body as a vehicle to comment on social realities, often addressing the repression of artistic freedom in his homeland of China. Part of a young group of Chinese artists who responded to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 by abandoning traditional art forms in favor of more experimental media, Zhang's radical performances, nearly always requiring him to submit his naked body to extreme duress, merge Western dance and theater traditions with elements borrowed from eastern religions.

Bucksbaum Award to be given for a second time For the second time, The Bucksbaum Award, the largest award in the world given to support the work of a living artist, will be presented to one of those included in the exhibition. At the last Biennial, it was conferred on Paul Pfeiffer, whose highly anticipated new video works go on view at the Whitney in mid-December. Endowed through the beneficence of trustee Melva Bucksbaum and her family, The Bucksbaum Award is given by the Whitney every two years to an artist in the Biennial. It includes a grant of $100,000, a two-year artist-in-residency at the Museum, and an exhibition in the Whitney's Contemporary Series.

The 2002 Bucksbaum Award jury is composed of: Annie Philbin, Director, UCLA Hammer Museum; Olukemi Ilesanmi, Curatorial Assistant, Visual Arts Department, Walker Art Center; Linda Norden, the Barbara Lee Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Maxwell L. Anderson, Director of the Whitney; and Lawrence Rinder, Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator of Contemporary Art at the Whitney.

Public Programming and Catalogue Extend Access to the Exhibition
Public programming for the 2002 Biennial Exhibition is intended to extend access to the exhibition through symposia, conversations with artists and curators, and interpretive materials. Programs will be announced at a later date.

The 2002 Biennial Exhibition catalogue features an introduction by curator Lawrence Rinder; a comprehensive artists' plate section with accompanying texts; artists' biographies; and a list of works in the exhibition. The book's design is by J. Abbott Miller/Pentagram. It is being published by the Whitney Museum of American Art and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Advisors from across the country helped guide the curators of the 2002 Biennial. They are: Bonnie Clearwater, Director and Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; Steve Dietz, Curator of New Media, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; James Elaine, Curator, Hammer Projects, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Mark McElhatten, independent curator, New York City; Peter Taub, Director of Performance, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Hamza Walker, Education Director, The Renaissance Society, Chicago.

Following is a list of artists participating in the 2002 Biennial Exhibition:
Peggy Ahwesh
Bosmat Alon
José Alvarez
Maryanne Amacher
Gregor Asch (DJ Olive the Audio Janitor)
Irit Batsry
Robert Beavers
Zoe Beloff
Sanford Biggers
Susan Black
Jeremy Blake
AA Bronson
James Buckhouse
Javier Cambre
Jim Campbell
Karin Campbell
Peter Campus
Vija Celmins
Chan Chao
Richard Chartier
Tony Cokes
Stephen Dean
Destroy All Monsters Collective
Keith Edmier
Tirtza Even
Omer Fast
Vincent Fecteau
Ken Feingold
Robert Fenz
Mary Flanagan
Glen Fogel
Benjamin Fry
Brian Frye
David Gatten
Joe Gibbons
Luis Gispert
Gogol Bordello
Janine Gordon
Alfred Guzzetti
Trenton Doyle Hancock
Rachel Harrison
Tim Hawkinson
Arturo Herrera
Evan Holloway
Dennis Hopper
Peter Hutton
Ken Jacobs
Christian Jankowski
Lisa Jevbratt/C5
Yun-Fei Ji
Chris Johanson
Miranda July
Yael Kanarek
Margaret Kilgallen
Kim Sooja
Diane Kitchen
John Klima
Mark LaPore
Robert Lazzarini
John Leaños
Margot Lovejoy
Vera Lutter
Christian Marclay
Ari Marcopoulos
Bruce McClure
Conor McGrady
Meredith Monk
Julie Moos
Tracie Morris
Mark Napier
Robert Nideffer
Andrew Noren
Josh On & Futurefarmers
Roxy Paine
Hirsch Perlman
Leighton Pierce
William Pope.L
Seth Price
Walid Ra'ad/The Atlas Group
Luis Recoder
Erwin Redl
Marina Rosenfeld
The Rural Studio
Salon de Fleurus
Keith Sanborn
Peter Sarkisian
Judith Schaechter
Collier Schorr
Chemi Rosado Seijo
Lorna Simpson
Kiki Smith
Gerry Snyder
Stom Sogo
Phil Solomon
Scott Stark
Brian Tolle
Rosie Lee Tompkins
Lauretta Vinciarelli
Stephen Vitiello
Chris Ware
Ouattara Watts
Peter Williams
Anne Wilson
Lebbeus Woods
Fred Worden
Jennifer Zackin
Zhang Huan
John Zurier

Opening: Tue March 5, 2002 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm

Brief History of the Biennial
The Biennial, now regarded as the signature exhibition of the Whitney Museum, has evolved into the premier showcase for the most important recent work made by American artists, from the established to the unknown. Heralded for its artistic innovation and inevitable controversy, the Biennial epitomizes the Whitney's mission to foster the advancement of new American art.

The prototype for the Biennial debuted soon after Whitney Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, herself an artist, opened the Whitney Studio Club in Greenwich Village in 1918. In those early years, American artists were struggling to free themselves from the prevailing art and culture of Europe. The Studio Club was intended as an alternative space where these artists could gather and display their works in annual survey exhibitions.

These small, early versions of the Biennial created the first major public forum for contemporary American art, as well as a means for the advancement and assimilation of modernism into the predominantly realist tradition of American art. Many artists who would later be counted among the most important figures in 20th-century American art had their first exhibition opportunities at the Whitney, including Milton Avery, Philip Guston, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O'Keeffe.

In 1931 the Whitney Museum of American Art opened to the public. Mrs. Whitney introduced the Biennial in 1932; unlike other museum exhibitions, it disallowed juries or awards. That same year the Museum established an acquisition fund for purchases from each Biennial exhibition. The early Biennials alternated painting with sculpture and works on paper; selections were made, at first, by the artists and then by curators. In 1937, the program was changed to Annual exhibitions of separate media (painting displayed in the fall, and sculpture and other media in the spring). Many artists who were already represented in the permanent collection, such as Stuart Davis, Hopper, Reginald Marsh and John Sloan, continued to exhibit their works in each Annual exhibition until their deaths.

In 1973 the current program of Biennials of combined media was instated. Video art was introduced in 1975, and film in 1979; 2000 marked the introduction of Internet art.

Image: Luis Gispert, Untitled (Three Asian Cheerleaders), 2002 Fujiflex print mounted on aluminum , 40 x 72 in. (101.6 x 182.9 cm)

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About the Whitney
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 by 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.

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