YI Artists: Site-specific Interventions With Alan Ruiz
Jan 5, 2016

Students construct an art installation in the stairs of the Whitney Museum.

Teens work on an intervention in the stairwell with artist Alan Ruiz, December 2015. Photograph by Patrick MacLeod

On December 9, teens in the Whitney’s Youth Insights Artists program performed site-specific interventions throughout the Museum. During the fall semester, the teens worked with artist Alan Ruiz, making sketches and sculptures to examine the relationship between architecture and power through the lens of the Whitney’s building, the work of Frank Stella, and Ruiz’s own practice. 

During the late afternoon while the Museum was open to the public, the teens and Ruiz installed their work in the galleries, store, stairwell, and on the eighth floor outdoor terrace. Museum visitors in the interstitial spaces such as the stairwell and hallways seemed surprised by the interventions, asking if they were artwork, and perhaps more carefully observing the spaces that they would normally pass through without a second glance. Here is a sampling of the teens’ interventions. All photographs by Patrick MacLeod.

  • Assembling a piece of an art installation in the gallery.

    Mario and Gianah chose to “spice up” an empty location near the restrooms on the third floor. They wanted to inspire visitors to look from multiple angles and fully experience the space.

  • Students work on a bench in a museum gallery to build part of the installation.

    On a bench in the seventh-floor galleries, Shania and Nick used glass and aluminum foil to represent water spilling out of a cup.

  • Two mirrors in a stairwell.

    Lutfun and Tyrique placed two large mirrors in the stairwell so that visitors could see other people ascending and descending the stairs in both directions, and take a moment to enjoy their intervention.

  • A mirror installed in the stairwell.

    Evan and Ivan angled two mirrors in the Whitney’s stairwell so that when visitors looked down, they saw upwards, and vice versa. The aim was to have visitors do a double take, and question what they saw.

  • Two teens set up a mirror sculpture in museum space.

    Amanata and Amelia created a sculpture outside the seventh floor restrooms. They based the structure of their work on a screen to play up the idea of surveillance in public spaces and how people act on their way to public restrooms.

  • Two students put mirror art on white columns in the museum.

    Joyce and Sally chose two columns in the Whitney’s store, wrapped them in cardboard pillars, and adorned the wrapped areas with ten small mirror paintings. Visitors could enjoy the shadows and reflections created by the paintings.

  • Two teens dance in a performance piece about Black Lives Matter.

    On the eighth floor terrace, Shanice and Nyya performed a piece about police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. They captured the unspoken with their dance movements and used phrases by victims of police violence.

Sasha Wortzel, Coordinator of Teen Programs commented about the project and its impact on the teens: This project expanded the students’ notions of what form an art piece could take. They learned that space is not just absolute or just a container. It directly influences our actions and how we relate to one another.” 

Learn more about teen programs here.

Dina Helal, Manager of Education Resources