Judith Bernstein, b. 1942, “L.B.J.”, 1967
The Whitney is like a towering Soho gallery with an uptown zip code. It exhibits eye-popping, avant-garde work characteristic of our favorite downtown artistic haunts, but on a larger scale, with more complex interpretations and a nod toward multimedia. The latest exhibition, Sinister Pop, opened yesterday, focuses on pop art of the ‘60s and ‘70s—but you won’t find a vibrant display of screen printed soup cans and comic book-style characters on these four walls. Sinister Pop examines the museum’s pop art collection with a dark and ominous lens: It focuses on a period of upheaval in America, where there was raging commercialism, changes in women’s rights and a war casting a dim shadow over society. Both familiar names (Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein) and the not-so-familiar (Vija Celmins, Peter Saul, Christina Ramberg) are featured, depicting scenes of political disillusionment, exaggerated consumption and the changing American landscape.
William Eggleston, b. 1939, Untitled, (c. 1972, printed 1980) from the portfolio Troubled Waters
The word “sinister” comes to the fore in images of crime scenes by the prolific street photographer Weegee as well as in themes of film noir. A video and film program will run alongside the exhibit called Dark and Deadpan: Pop in TV and the Movies, which focuses on the role of television and cinema in communicating the angst of the masses during the time. Sinister Pop is the fourth of six exhibitions at the Whitney reassessing the museum’s collections before its move to a new space downtown.
May Stevens, b. 1924, Big Daddy Paper Doll, 1969
Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf said in a press release, “As we anticipate our downtown building opening in 2015, we are actively exploring new ways to reconsider both key historical moments and the presentation of our collection. Unlike many exhibitions devoted to the movement, Sinister Pop combines photographer, prints, drawing, painting, and sculpture, alongside related films and videos, to express the Whitney’s belief in a truly multimedia display.”
Sinister Pop is on view now until March at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; whitney.org.