BY HANNAH REIMANN | Visitors to The Whitney Museum are in for some more groundbreaking shows this spring and summer — treats for the eyes and psyche. There are large exhibits on the third, fifth and eighth floors of two outstanding living artists, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Josh Kline.
Jaune Quick-to-See’s “Memory Map” encompasses the visual storytelling of the artist’s life as a Native American, bearing her heart and soul, with a critical nod at American settlers and destruction by the U.S. government, contemplation of the American flag, and honoring totemic animals, like rabbits and coyotes, among many other things.
This exhibit is the first New York retrospective of her work. The intelligent references to and influences by Picasso, Twombly, Rauschenberg, Warhol and Basquiat lend a feeling that the paintings and installations are at home in these galleries, lovingly hung by true believers in her art and, at once, something entirely new. I will return, again, to see her story a second and third time.
Josh Kline’s bold, and at times devastating “Project for a New American Century” hauntingly recaps the pandemic years in New York and other American cities and towns. This is the first U.S. museum survey of this recognized artist, who was born in 1979 in Philadelphia and now lives and works in New York City. The show’s overall 10-year span gives a clear sense of Kline’s passion, and his wishes to educate and inspire.
The installations fill room after room with visions of outrage, with each room a different color or mood, sometimes with furniture set out so viewers can better watch provocative video interviews on large TV screens. Sometimes the furniture, chopped and displaced, is the exhibit. There are 3D-printed pieces of limbs, heads, masks, medication, hospital workers, the din of protest and the silence of isolation. Curiosity builds from room to room. Sometimes a visitor is met with a comfortable place to rest, only to be confronted with another thought-generating ensemble of pieces or an apocalyptic film referencing global warming.
I don’t want to give away too many surprises. Part of the wonder of these expansive and expertly curated shows by both artists is the gradual unfolding and progression as the viewer walks through the rooms. Sometimes the experience is shocking. Sometimes it causes a smile or a sudden laugh.
The impeccable technique, humor and intelligence are all there with Kline. The dedication to her cause, passion and creativity never wane in Quick-to-See’s artistry. Both have a steady gaze and focus on identifying perpetrators of destruction and loss while simultaneously creating their unique and tactile visual worlds within worlds that leave us feeling refreshed, eager and waiting to see and learn what’s next for them and for us.
“Jayne Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map” and “Josh Kline: Project For A New American Century,” from April 19 to Aug. 23, at The Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St. For more information, call 212-570-6300 or visit whitney.org.
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