An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017
Aug 18, 2017–Aug 27, 2018
Through the lens of the Whitney’s collection, An Incomplete History of Protest looks at how artists from the 1940s to the present have confronted the political and social issues of their day. Whether making art as a form of activism, criticism, instruction, or inspiration, the featured artists see their work as essential to challenging established thought and creating a more equitable culture. Many have sought immediate change, such as ending the war in Vietnam or combating the AIDS crisis. Others have engaged with protest more indirectly, with the long term in mind, hoping to create new ways of imagining society and citizenship.
Since its founding in the early twentieth century, the Whitney has served as a forum for the most urgent art and ideas of the day, at times attracting protest itself. An Incomplete History of Protest, however, is by name and necessity a limited account. No exhibition can approximate the activism now happening in the streets and online, and no collection can account fully for the methodological, stylistic, and political diversity of artistic address. Instead, the exhibition offers a sequence of historical case studies focused on particular moments and themes—from questions of representation to the fight for civil rights—that remain relevant today. At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.
An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017 is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection; Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator; and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator; with David Kiehl, curator emeritus; and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.
Major support for An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940‒2017 is provided by The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President.
Significant support is provided by the Ford Foundation.
ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION
Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited
William N. Copley
Louis H. Draper
Chris "Daze" Ellis*
Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds
Charles B. Hinman
Daniel Joseph Martinez
John "Crash" Matos*
Tim Rollins and K.O.S.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Mierle Laderman Ukeles*
*Installed as part of an earlier version of the exhibition.
"Is it a form of activism to expose yourself?" asks artist Jeffrey Gibson, as he discusses Howardena Pindell's video work Free, White and 21.
Tom Kalin of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury responds to American Policy, a series of pastel drawings by Cheyenne/Arapaho artist Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds and discusses language-based artwork.
Artist and activist Shellyne Rodriguez responds to Ja’Tovia Gary’s film An Ecstatic Experience and discusses how the work explores strategies for survival in the current political moment.
Publisher Badlands Unlimited and artist Paul Chan produced The New No's in response to the 2016 election. Here, Dread Scott discusses why he thinks of the work as a beacon for other artists to follow.
Whitney Stories: Jeffrey Gibson on Howardena Pindell
Whitney Stories: Gran Fury's Tom Kalin on Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds
Badlands Unlimited presents What is Crypto?
Whitney Stories: Shellyne Rodriguez on Ja’Tovia Gary
ASL Vlog: Carl Pope
ASL Vlog: Theaster Gates
ASL Vlog: Senga Nengudi
ASL Vlog: AA Bronson
ASL Vlog: Dread Scott
ASL Vlog: Nancy Grossman
What Art Speaks To These Times
AA Bronson on Felix Partz, June 5, 1994
Edgar Heap of Birds in Conversation with David Breslin
Hear From Artists
Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from the exhibition.
In the News
"An Incomplete History of Protest examines how artists have become activists in order to help create a better future.”
“Get To Know An Incomplete History Of Protest at the Whitney”
“The Whitney Museum’s latest exhibition takes a creative approach to political and social activism, and how the past can inform the present.”
“At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.”