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Guyton\Walker’s Downtown Commission Part One: The Project

MAY 24, 2010

To herald plans to bring a downtown Whitney to the Meatpacking District, the Museum is launching Whitney on Site: New Commissions Downtown on the site of the future Whitney building at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, adjacent to the High Line. The series features three large-scale, commissioned works by Guyton\Walker (the collaborative team of Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker), Tauba Auerbach, and Barbara Kruger—all artists represented in the Museum’s collection and whose work incorporates digital printing and graphic imagery.

Guyton\Walker launched the series, and the Education Department had the opportunity to follow the team through their creative process, from planning and production to the installation of the project at the High Line.

Whitney Curator Scott Rothkopf and Kelley Walker discuss the Guyton\Walker downtown project at the artist’s studio. Photograph by Pierce Jackson

Whitney Curator Scott Rothkopf and Kelley Walker discuss the Guyton\Walker downtown project at the artist’s studio. Photograph by Pierce Jackson

Back in April, we visited Kelley Walker’s studio in downtown Manhattan and spoke with Walker and Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf. Rothkopf explained that for the installation the artists were asked to create a temporary work for the site with printed vinyl and decals: “The installation couldn’t in any way impede the workings of the High Line team, so if we put things on the pavement, they could be driven over, dirt could get on them, and so could rain.” Although Guyton\Walker’s work has often engaged its physical surroundings, Rothkopf explained how this installation differed greatly from their previous projects. “It’s a really different experience than anything they’ve done before in a gallery setting, which is a controlled space for looking at art. Here we’re going to have a lot of people who see the work and don’t even know they’re seeing art, and we’ll also have people using the site in ways that we can’t even fully anticipate.”

Walker uses a model to explain the artists’ project at the Whitney’s new downtown site. Photograph by Pierce Jackson

Walker uses a model to explain the artists’ project at the Whitney’s new downtown site. Photograph by Pierce Jackson

Kelley Walker showed us the model of the site and Guyton\Walker’s planned intervention. The artists’ project involves wrapping the site’s perimeter fence with printed vinyl, as well as adhering decals onto rooftops and pavement. Currently the site is home to several trailers which serve as the Friends of the Highline maintenance and operations offices. “It’s a very rough environment still,” Walker explained, “the buildings around are kind of in decay. So we took all of that into account, and we started to generate the images.” The artist explained that the imagery of exotic fruits and animal skins against the site’s barbed wire and asphalt alludes to the space’s eventual transition into the site of the Whitney’s new downtown building. “We were also playing with the idea of transformation,” Walker explained, “the idea of using something kind of promising and lush and also exotic…being brought into this sort of space as an image between something passing and something becoming.”

Read more about the Whitney’s Downtown Building Project.

By Sarah Meller, Education Assistant