75 Emerging Artists Take Over The Whitney For 2019 Biennial

The Whitney Biennial, the museum’s biannual “frontline report” on what’s happening in American art right now, opened its doors to members this week and to the general public this weekend. It’s the 79th iteration of this eagerly anticipated, often controversial, and recently protested exhibition. This year it features the work of 75 different artists and collectives working across the country.

For the 2019 Biennial, in-house Whitney curators Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley focused on emerging artists, the vast majority of whom have never shown their work in this forum, and most of whom are under the age of 40. You’ll find paintings, photography, sculpture, installation, mixed media, video, sound, and live performance, spread out over four floors and on the outdoor roof decks—it all feels very fresh and energizing.

As always with large, broad exhibitions of this sort, your reactions to individual pieces will likely vary widely as you wander through the galleries, but a few personal highlights from Monday’s press preview would include Calvin Marcus’s series of simple, bold paintings facing the elevators on six; Alexander Bell’s heavily redacted Daily News covers and articles from their sensational coverage of the Central Park Five case and the non-existent “wilding” epidemic of the late 1980s; and Laura Ortman’s haunting video of her playing violin in a lush mountainscape.

Both of the big sculptural installations in the outdoor terraces are show stoppers. Nicole Eisenman’s crazy parade on the Whitney’s sixth floor deck is amusing and grotesque in about equal measures, and rewards close inspection to notice all the bizarre detailing. And if it hadn’t been raining I would have spent a lot more time with Meriem Bennani’s playful, beautifully designed “Mission Teens: French School in Morocco,” a multi-disciplinary “video viewing garden” outside on the fifth floor that, among its other delights, features a pretty solid rap song by Lil Patty.

Other good things: the performance by Brendan Fernandes’s dancers (basically striking ballet poses in what looks like spindly jungle gym); a trio of weighty sculptures by Simone Leigh; Curran Hatleberg’s journalistic photographs of the third floor; Keegan Monaghan’s painting of a furry red phone; the portraits of bodies being altered by Elle Pérez; Heji Shin’s photos of babies emerging from their mother; Kyle Thurman’s brightly colored drawings, hung unusually low on the wall; and Agustina Woodgate’s “National Times,” a room full of clocks designed to erase their faces as the exhibition goes on.

Jeffrey Gibson, <em>Keep on Moving</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jeffrey Gibson, Keep on Moving (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Diane Simpson, <em>Window Dressing: Background 4, April VI</em> (2003/2007). Image courtesy Ben Davis.</em>

Diane Simpson, Window Dressing: Background 4, April VI (2003/2007). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Curran Hatleberg, <em>Untitled (Dominoes)</em> (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Curran Hatleberg, Untitled (Dominoes) (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Meriem Bennani, detail of MISSION TEENS: French school in Morocco (2019) at the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Courtesy of Ben Davis.

Meriem Bennani, detail of MISSION TEENS: French school in Morocco (2019) at the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Courtesy of Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by John Edmonds. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by John Edmonds. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Josh Kline. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Josh Kline. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Eric N. Mack, <em>Proposition: for Wet Gee's Bend Quilts to replace the American flag—Permanently</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Eric N. Mack, Proposition: for Wet Gee’s Bend Quilts to replace the American flag—Permanently (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Jennifer Packer. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of paintings by Jennifer Packer. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works from Heji Shin's "Baby" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works from Heji Shin’s “Baby” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Simone Leigh, Corrugated Lady (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Simone Leigh, Corrugated Lady (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Simone Leigh [foreground] and Janiva Ellis at the Whitney Biennial. Photo courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Simone Leigh [foreground] and Janiva Ellis at the Whitney Biennial. Photo courtesy Ben Davis.

Keegan Monaghan, <em>Blue Door</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Keegan Monaghan, Blue Door (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Dancers performing on Brendan Fernandes's <em>The Master and Form</em> (2018/2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Dancers performing on Brendan Fernandes’s The Master and Form (2018/2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Ariel Goldberg, <em>Camera Lesson (_2210485)</em> (2018) Ariel Goldberg, <em>Camera Lesson</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Ariel Goldberg, Camera Lesson (_2210485) (2018) Ariel Goldberg, Camera Lesson (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Matthew Angelo Harrison. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Matthew Angelo Harrison. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Agustina Woodgate, National Times (2016/2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Agustina Woodgate, National Times (2016/2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Kyle Thurman's "Suggested Occupation" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Kyle Thurman’s “Suggested Occupation” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Marcus Fischer, <em>Untitled (Words of Concern)</em> (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Marcus Fischer, Untitled (Words of Concern) (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Alexandra Bell's "No Humans Allowed: After Sylvia Wynter" series (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Alexandra Bell’s “No Humans Allowed: After Sylvia Wynter” series (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Elle Pérez. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Elle Pérez. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

 

Jeffrey Gibson, <em>PEOPLE LIKE US</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jeffrey Gibson, PEOPLE LIKE US (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Christine Sun Kim's "Degrees of My Deaf Rage in the Art World" (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work from Christine Sun Kim’s “Degrees of My Deaf Rage in the Art World” (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jeanette Mundt, <em>Born Athlete American: Aly Raisman II</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Jeanette Mundt, Born Athlete American: Aly Raisman II (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden, <em>I Prayed to the Wrong God</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden, I Prayed to the Wrong God (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

[Foreground]: Work from Iman Issa's "Heritage Studies" series; [Background] Carissa Rodriguez, <em>The Maid</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work from Iman Issa’s “Heritage Studies” series, and [background] Carissa Rodriguez, The Maid (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work from Milano Chow's "Night Exterior" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work from Milano Chow’s “Night Exterior” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Pat Phillips, <em>Untitled (Don't Tread on Me)</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Pat Phillips, Untitled (Don’t Tread on Me) (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Kota Ezawa, <em>National Anthem</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Kota Ezawa, National Anthem (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Calvin Marcus, <em>Los Angeles Painting</em>(2018) and <em>Tall Snowman</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Calvin Marcus, Los Angeles Painting (2018) and Tall Snowman (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of various works by Martine Syms. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of various works by Martine Syms. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lucas Blalock, <em>The Nonconformist</em> (2017-2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Lucas Blalock, The Nonconformist (2017-2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Ragen Moss. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Ragen Moss. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Marlon Mullen's "Untitled" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Works from Marlon Mullen’s “Untitled” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wangechi Mutu, <em>Sentinel I</em> and <em>Sentinel II</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Wangechi Mutu, Sentinel I and Sentinel II (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Robert Bittenbender, <em>Broadway Nights</em> (2015) and [right] Carolyn Lazard, <em>Extended Stay</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Robert Bittenbender, Broadway Nights (2015) and [right] Carolyn Lazard, Extended Stay (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Robert Bittenbende, <em>Sister Carrie</em> (2017). and <em>Mott Heaven</em> (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Robert Bittenbende, Sister Carrie (2017). and Mott Heaven (2016). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Maia Ruth Lee, <em>LABYRINTH</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Maia Ruth Lee, LABYRINTH (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Nicole Eisenman, <em>Procession</em> (2019). image courtesy Ben Davis.

Nicole Eisenman, Procession (2019). image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Ilana Harris-Babou, <em>Human Design</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Ilana Harris-Babou, Human Design (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Olga Balema, <em>Floor</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Olga Balema, Floor (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tomashi Jackson, <em>Hometown Buffet - Two Blues (Limited Value Exercise)</em> (2019) and <em>Third Party Transfer and the Making of Central Park (Seneca Village - Brooklyn 1853-2019)</em> (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Tomashi Jackson, Hometown Buffet – Two Blues (Limited Value Exercise) (2019) and Third Party Transfer and the Making of Central Park (Seneca Village – Brooklyn 1853-2019) (2019). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of three works from Brian Belott's "Untitled" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of three works from Brian Belott’s “Untitled” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Forensic Architecture, <em>Triple Chaser</em> (2019) video at the Whitney Biennial. Photo courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Forensic Architecture, Triple Chaser (2019) video at the Whitney Biennial. Photo courtesy Ben Davis.

Todd Gray, <em>Euclidian Gris Gris 2</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Todd Gray, Euclidian Gris Gris 2 (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Joe Minter. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Joe Minter. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work by Troy Michie. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Work by Troy Michie. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Walter Price. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Walter Price. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Laura Ortman, <em>My Soul Remainer</em> (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Laura Ortman, My Soul Remainer (2017). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Gala Porras-Kim. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Gala Porras-Kim. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Eddie Arroyo. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of works by Eddie Arroyo. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Daniel Lind-Ramos, <i>1797 Vencendor (1797: Victorious)</i> (2017-18), at the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Courtesy of Ben Davis.

Daniel Lind-Ramos, 1797 Vencendor (1797: Victorious) (2017-18), at the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Courtesy of Ben Davis.

Installation view of Ellie Ga's "Gyre" series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Installation view of Ellie Ga’s “Gyre” series. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Nicholas Galanin, <em>White Noise, American Prayer Rug</em> (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

Nicholas Galanin, White Noise, American Prayer Rug (2018). Image courtesy Ben Davis.

For months now, activists have been mounting demonstrations against of Whitney Museum board member Warren Kanders, who has ties to a defense manufacturer whose tear gas canisters have been used against asylum seekers at the United States-Mexico border. Expect more protests this week.