“I have always loved sculpture. My husband and I spent our first date in an art gallery’s garden filled with American sculpture. We hope these exhibitions of 20th century American sculpture will delight, challenge, and inspire the thousands of visitors who pass through the White House every day. "It is appropriate that these exhibitions are on display in the garden created by and named for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy believed that art could and should be part of all of our lives. Now these masterpieces of contemporary American art are accessible to a new and larger audience than ever before. "The sculptures from the different regions of the United States reflect and celebrate the special genius of American artists and their enduring capacity to stir our imaginations and touch our hearts. "I hope this celebration of America’s creative spirit will enable each of us to gain a greater appreciation of the rich cultural traditions we share as a nation and as a people. "My special thanks go to the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, J. Carter Brown, and the lending institutions, for their time, energy, and wisdom in making these exhibitions possible.”
-Hillary Rodham Clinton
As a museum whose purview is to show, as one pundit put it, “the last five minutes of art history,” the New Museum is especially honored to have been invited to organize the fourth section of the exhibition Twentieth Century American Sculpture at The White House. Featuring work from museum collections in the Northeastern area of the country, we’ve chosen to focus on some of the unusual ways artists consider the physical, material and conceptual boundaries of sculptural language.
The exhibition features ten outdoor and two indoor pieces. The earliest dates from 1971 and the latest from 1995, but most were made within the past decade. The makers range from well-known and widely respected artists who have achieved international recognition to younger sculptors whose work has just begun to enter the public arena. The traditional pedestal has disappeared almost entirely; some work seems to meld into the ground it sits on; or appears to rise above it; or dances of into the distance altogether.
Landscape, myth, body and spirit, those evocative and generative aspects of the world, are both the source material and subject matter of the work. Through the use of materials such as discarded tires or corroded pennies, certain pieces refer to the familiar, everyday world, while others create physically and emotionally resonant spaces that act as bridges between the past and the present. Others provide viewers with a moment of stillness and reflection on an otherwise rapidly moving horizon of thought and activity.
What wonderful opportunities this exhibition provides: a chance to view sculpture in a perfect setting, in the extraordinary tranquillity and grace of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden; an occasion to share with the public some of the many ideas, materials, and forms that characterize the sculpture of our time; and an event which celebrates the vitality, richness and complexity of contemporary American art.
It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s deep appreciation for modern sculpture that provides the impetus for this project, and J. Carter Brown’s knowledge and enthusiasm ensured it. My gratitude, also, to the Association of Art Museum Directors and to Mimi Gaudieri, the Executive Director, for generous support. Thanks are due to Fernando Barenbilt who coordinated the project for the New Museum and to John Hatfield, our Registrar/Exhibitions Coordinator, for its implementation. I am particularly grateful to Rex Scouten and other members of the White House staff whose counsel and expertise made the project so enjoyable. All of us are indebted to the lending institutions for their cooperation, and above all to the artists whose vision, imagination, and dedication are fundamental to America’s artistic and cultural leadership. -Marcia Tucker, 1996 Director, New Museum New York, New York
INDEX of ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION: Chakaia Booker, Melvin Edwards, Joel Fisher, Nancy Graves , Maren Hassinger, Donald Lipski, Robert Lobe, Allan McCollum, Tom Otterness, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Lucas Samaras, and Ed Shay.
These exhibitions were made possible by the generosity of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation with the cooperation of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the White House Historical Association. Photography by David Finn.20th-Century American Sculpture in the White House Garden.
Eight exhibitions in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden of the White House, each selcted by a museum in a different region of the country, have showcased American sculpture of the twentieth centrury.