Photograph © Timothy Schenk 2015. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Maya Stovall, still from Liquor Store Theatre vol. 1, no. 3, 2014. Photo by Eric Johnston. Courtesy of the artist, Eric Johnston, Todd Stovall, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Participating is both a risk and a reward
Collaborative artist duo Victoria Sobel and Casey Gollan were introduced to the curators by friends in the fall of 2015, around the time they were working on “Nonstop Cooper,” a pop-up artist residency that evolved from protests against paid tuition at New York’s Cooper Union. Lew and Locks kept in touch, attending talks by the artists and engaging them in dialogue about their practice. Gollan enjoyed speaking to them “without any project on the horizon,” she said.
Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, Window I, Nonstop Cooper, Cooper Union, 31 3rd Avenue, New York, 2015. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Addressing the biennial’s past
These artists are not misty-eyed and uncritical when it comes to the opportunity to be exhibited at a prestigious museum. In interviews, several were circumspect about their participation—partly due to criticism that some past editions have received over their lack of diversity.
Sky Hopinka, still from Visions of an Island, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
What comes next?
Hopinka said that since being asked to participate he’s focused on new projects, along with freelance work for his tribe and other tribes across the Northwest. He continues to teach at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he is based. Stovall is also adamant that little will change. “My personality and how I work as an artist—that’s not changing,” she said. “I’m still deeply private. But I want to contribute to the dialogue.”