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“Museums are a place for hanging out”: America is Hard to See at the new Whitney

“To all the modern works of man
And all we call American.
America is hard to see.
Less partial witnesses than he
In book on book have testified”

America is weird; America is cool. I know this because I grew up here. But it was in the earlier years, the years our parents and grandparents lived through (like: before cell phones and all that jazz, like when there was actual JAZZ) that really shaped this very unique contemporary mixture—the “melting pot”, if you will.

Now in this new exhibit accompanying the grand opening of the new Whitney in the Meatpacking district (designed by Renzo Piano, known for his famous architectural design of Paris’ Centre Pompidou), a century of America is celebrated with rare—if ever seen before—artworks throughout the decades in America Is Hard to See, named appropriately after a Robert Frost poem that is also a political documentary by Emile de Antonio.

There are twenty-three chapters in the new exhibit. Each section is organized by different challenging and groundbreaking events that took place culturally, and how artists responded to these events birthing various movements. I was excited to see my favorite pop artist Barbara Kruger proudly displayed, along with Peter Saul, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, etc., etc.—it’s all a bit overwhelming, actually.

My favorite had to be Mary Heilmann’s “Sunset” installation located on the balcony areas; the outdoor gallery / seating area colorfully represents scattered confetti. Heilmann says that, “museums are a place for hanging out,” making this outdoor exhibit, that might I add has probably my favorite rooftop view in the city, a perfect Friday night date spot to forget about those workweek blues.


Even better: every Friday night from 7-10pm the Whitney has donation-based entry, so essentially you could get in for a dollar. I suggest arriving at 6:30 for a good spot, because the line usually ends up going across the street and wrapping around the corner (goes by fast though).

(photos taken by Kaitlin Duffy at the Whitney Museum of American Art; main photo is Glenn Ligon’s Ruckenfigur from 2009, second is Mary Heilmann’s Sunset installation)

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.