Robert Whitman. Courtesy of Pace Wildenstein.
The accompanying full color catalogue includes an interview of Whitman by the artist and historian Coosje van Bruggen. Known for over 30 years of collaborative projects with Claes Oldenburg, van Bruggen has served as an international independent curator, worked as a Senior Critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale University’s School of Art in New Haven (1996 – 97) and authored books on John Baldessari, Hanne Darboven, Bruce Nauman and more recently, Frank O. Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
In the current exhibition, Turning, Whitman explores the light, movement, and space of planetary experience. He began by gathering video footage from NASA which he has digitally manipulated and montaged to create moving imagery projected internally onto the surface of three plastic hemispheres: Earth (2006), Europa (2006), and Ganymede (2006). The works, which hang from the ceiling, measure between four and five feet in diameter. “Our generation is the first bunch of people that actually know the moon close-up. On the one hand that’s kind of wonderful and on the other it adds another area of stuff we can’t imagine…. another diving board to jump off into the unknown,” commented Whitman in the new interview.
Two other 2007 projection works, will also be on view in Turning. The first projection, Sun (2007), uses a movie generated by the YOHKOH (Japanese for sunbeam) satellite. The YOHKOH satellite was a project developed by the Institute for Space and Astronautical Sciences to record images of the Sun using wavelengths of light not visible through the Earth’s atmosphere. In order to create Sun Whitman modified the rotation, speed and color of the images taken from YOHKOH, and then projected them onto manipulated fabric. The second work, Io (generated, like the first group, from NASA video footage) is similarly projected onto fabric, transforming the dimensionality of this Jovian moon from the spherical to the two dimensions of the torn, sewn, undulating surface of a cloth.
Robert Whitman (b. 1935) has presented and participated in 45 theater works and performances since 1960, as well as worked on selected projects such as Pavilion (E.A.T.), 1968 – 1970, with David Tudor, Forrest Myers, Fujiko Nakaya and Robert Breer for the design and development of the Pepsi Pavilion at the 1970 Expo in Osaka and Children and Communications, which took place in New York in May 1970. In the work, two environments were linked by telephones, telex, and facsimile machines for children in different neighborhoods to communicate with one another.
One of Robert Whitman’s most recent project involving technology is Local Report (2005), a montage of live footage sent to him over the internet by 150 participants he coordinated from various East Coast locations via cell phone video cameras and then later projected as a web cast. The exhibition was presented as a three-channel projection with sound.
Local Report debuted at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in early December 2005 and presented an example of an artist adapting his perceptual pursuits to contemporary technology. In NEWS, a similar work produced in 1972, Whitman asked participants to call in their own local reports from pay phones.
Robert Whitman (b. 1935) was born in New York City, and in 1957 received a B.A. in Literature at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. In 1958 he began studies in art history at Columbia University in New York. The same year he returned to Rutgers for his first solo exhibition while he continued to work in New York, becoming an active figure in the New York art world where he created and staged many of the first “Happenings,” along with artists Allan Kaprow, Lucas Samaras, Red Grooms, Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg. Whitman’s performances were rare however, in that they allowed for future recitals, while his contemporaries Whitman worked on six projects such as this from New York, to India, to Japan from 1968 through 1981. He has also made several films and incorporated them into his work. These include Window, 1963; Dressing Table, 1964; Shower, 1964; Sink, 1964; and Room, 1974.
Whitman has had numerous solo and group exhibitions including Robert Whitman, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1968); Robert Whitman: 4 Cinema Pieces, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1968); Pond, The Jewish Museum, New York (1968 – 1969); Untitled, three projection pieces in the “Project Series,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1973); Robert Whitman: Playback, Dia: Chelsea, New York (2003-2004); Robert Whitman: Local Report, Hawley Lane Plaza, Trumbull, Connecticut (2005), which traveled to Kohl’s Plaza, Holmdel, New Jersey, Liberty Square Center, Burlington, New Jersey, Kingston Center Kingston, New Jersey, Northampton Crossings, Easton Pennsylvania, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Robert Whitman: Local Report, 2005 was on view at Art Gallery, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, in Spring 2007.