The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that sixty-three artists and collectives will be participating in Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept, co-organized by two Whitney curators, David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. This will be the eightieth iteration in the long-running series of annual and biennial exhibitions launched by the Museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in 1932. The 2022 Biennial takes over most of the Whitney from April 6 through September 5, with portions of the exhibition and some programs continuing through October 23, 2022.
Breslin and Edwards remarked: “The Whitney Biennial is an ongoing experiment, the result of a shared commitment to artists and the work they do. We began planning for this exhibition, originally slated to open in 2021, almost a year before the 2020 election, before the pandemic and shutdown with their reeling effects, before the uprisings demanding racial justice and before the questioning of institutions and their structures. While many of these underlying conditions are not new, their overlapping, intensity, and sheer ubiquity created a context in which past, present, and future folded into one another. We’ve organized the exhibition to reflect these precarious and improvised times. The Biennial primarily serves as a forum for artists, and the works that will be presented reflect their enigmas, the things that perplex them, the important questions they are asking.”
The 2022 Biennial features dynamic contributions that take different forms over the course of the presentation: artworks—even walls—change, and performance animates the galleries and objects. With a roster of artists at all points in their careers, the Biennial surveys the art of these times through an intergenerational group, many with an interdisciplinary perspective, and the curators have chosen not to have a separate performance or video and film program. Rather, these forms are integrated into the exhibition with an equal and consistent presence in the galleries.
The majority of the exhibition takes place on the Museum’s fifth and sixth floors, which are counterpoints and act as pendants to one another: one floor is a dark labyrinth, a space of containment; and the other is a clearing, open and light-filled. The former also contains an antechamber, a space of reserve. The dynamics of borders and what constitutes “American” are explored by artists from Mexico, specifically Ciudad Juá rez and Tijuana, and First Nations artists in Canada, as well as by artists born outside of North America.
“Deliberately intergenerational and interdisciplinary, the Biennial proposes that cultural, aesthetic, and political possibility begins with meaningful exchange and reciprocity,” Breslin and Edwards noted. “Rather than proposing a unified theme, we pursue a series of hunches throughout the exhibition: that abstraction demonstrates a tremendous capacity to create, share, and, sometimes withhold, meaning; that research-driven conceptual art can combine the lushness of ideas and materiality; that personal narratives sifted through political, literary, and pop cultures can address larger social frameworks; that artworks can complicate what ‘American’ means by addressing the country’s physical and psychological boundaries; and that our ‘now’ can be reimagined by engaging with under-recognized artistic models and artists we’ve lost.”
Adam D. Weinberg, the Museum’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, commented: “Curators David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards have been visiting artists over the past two years in search of the most important and relevant work. The 2022 Biennial arrives at a time haunted by a global pandemic and plagued by ongoing racial and economic inequities and polarizing politics. The artists in the exhibition challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community and offer one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years.”
Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, noted, “Throughout this challenging time, it’s been an inspiration and pleasure to watch David and Adrienne curate their edition of the Whitney’s enduring, signature exhibition. Their intellectual chemistry was as evident as the rigor and care they brought to their collaborations with artists. The 2022 Biennial deftly manages to reflect both the spirit of a moment and deep historical awareness—of art, our society, and the Biennial itself.”
The title of the 2022 Whitney Biennial, Quiet as It’s Kept, is a colloquialism. Breslin and Edwards were inspired by the ways novelist Toni Morrison, jazz drummer Max Roach, and artist David Hammons have invoked it in their works. The phrase is typically said prior to something— sometimes obvious—that should be kept secret.
Breslin and Edwards also chose to adorn Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept with a symbol: ) (. This inverted set of parentheses is taken from a poem written by N. H. Pritchard in May 1968. The poem’s manuscript is included in the exhibition and is reproduced in full in the exhibition’s catalogue. A highly experimental poet whose visually dynamic, text-based works strongly resemble concrete poetry, Pritchard traversed many different circles in downtown New York, from membership in Umbra—a collective of Black poets that was radical both aesthetically and politically—to the international poetry avant-garde, to the bohemian Greenwich Village of Philip Guston and Allen Ginsberg. “The symbol resonated with us in its gesturing toward openness, beyond what is contained, even toward the uncontainable. We also value its suggestion of interlude or interval,” Breslin and Edwards commented.
Curatorial Credit ~ Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept is co-organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives, and Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, with Gabriel Almeida Baroja, Curatorial Project Assistant, and Margaret Kross, former Senior Curatorial Assistant.
Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 99 Gansevoort Street, in the historic Meatpacking District, NYC.