America Is Hard to See
May 1–Sep 27, 2015

Onlookers in windowed gallery.

Running People at 2,616,216 (1978–79) by Jonathan Borofsky installed on the West Ambulatory, 5th floor, the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See (May 1–September 27, 2015). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photograph © Nic Lehoux

A mural faces the gallery windows and the Hudson River

Drawn entirely from the Whitney Museum of American Art’s collection, America Is Hard to See takes the inauguration of the Museum’s new building as an opportunity to reexamine the history of art in the United States from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. Comprising more than six hundred works, the exhibition elaborates the themes, ideas, beliefs, and passions that have galvanized American artists in their struggle to work within and against established conventions, often directly engaging their political and social contexts. Numerous pieces that have rarely, if ever, been shown appear alongside beloved icons in a conscious effort to unsettle assumptions about the American art canon.

The title, America Is Hard to See, comes from a poem by Robert Frost and a political documentary by Emile de Antonio. Metaphorically, the title seeks to celebrate the ever-changing perspectives of artists and their capacity to develop visual forms that respond to the culture of the United States. It also underscores the difficulty of neatly defining the country’s ethos and inhabitants, a challenge that lies at the heart of the Museum’s commitment to and continually evolving understanding of American art.

Organized chronologically, the exhibition’s narrative is divided into twenty- three thematic “chapters” installed throughout the building. These sections revisit and revise established tropes while forging new categories and even expanding the definition of who counts as an American artist. Indeed, each chapter takes its name not from a movement or style but from the title of a work that evokes the section’s animating impulse. Works of art across all mediums are displayed together, acknowledging the ways in which artists have engaged various modes of production and broken the boundaries between them.

America Is Hard to See reflects the Whitney’s distinct record of acquisitions and exhibitions, which constitutes a kind of collective memory—one that represents a range of individual, sometimes conflicting, attitudes toward what American art might be or mean or do at any given moment. By simultaneously mining and questioning our past, we do not arrive at a comprehensive survey or tidy summation, but rather at a critical new beginning: the first of many stories still to tell.

America Is Hard to See is organized by a team of Whitney curators, led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, including Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing; Dana Miller, Curator of the Permanent Collection; and Scott Rothkopf, Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs; with Jane Panetta, Assistant Curator; Catherine Taft, Assistant Curator; and Mia Curran, Curatorial Assistant.

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INAUGURAL EXHIBITION ARTISTS

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Berenice Abbott
Michele Abeles
Vito Acconci
Ansel Adams
Robert Adams
Carl Andre
Kenneth Anger
Eleanor Antin
Diane Arbus
Cory Arcangel
David Armstrong
Richard Artschwager
Ruth Asawa
Asco
Charles Atlas
Lutz Bacher
Peggy Bacon
Jo Baer
Alex Bag
Malcolm Bailey
Lamar Baker
John Baldessari
Alvin Baltrop
Lewis Baltz
Matthew Barney
Richmond Barthé
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Romare Bearden
Cecil Beaton
Robert Beavers
Robert Bechtle
Ericka Beckman
Larry Bell
George Bellows
Lynda Benglis
Thomas Hart Benton
Wallace Berman
Bernadette Corporation
Judith Bernstein
Huma Bhabha
David Bienstock
Henry Billings
Ilse Bing
Dara Birnbaum
Nayland Blake
Oscar Bluemner
Peter Blume
Lee Bontecou
Jonathan Borofsky
Louise Bourgeois
Margaret Bourke-White
Carol Bove
Mark Bradford
Stan Brakhage
Robert Breer
Patrick Henry Bruce
Bernarda Bryson Shahn
Charles Burchfield
Jacob Burck
Chris Burden
Scott Burton
Mary Ellen Bute
Paul Cadmus
John Cage
Alexander Calder
Cameron
Luis Camnitzer
Peter Campus
James Castle
Elizabeth Catlett
Maurizio Cattelan
Vija Celmins
John Chamberlain
Paul Chan
Sarah Charlesworth
Ayoka Chenzira
Chryssa
Larry Clark
Chuck Close
Sue Coe
Anne Collier
Bruce Conner
Joseph Cornell
Eldzier Cortor
Miguel Covarrubias
John Covert
Ralston Crawford
E.E. Cummings
Imogen Cunningham
John Currin
John Steuart Curry
Allan D’Arcangelo
James Daugherty
Emma Lu Davis
Stuart Davis
Willem de Kooning
Walter De Maria
Roy DeCarava
Jay DeFeo
Charles Demuth
Maya Deren
Mark di Suvero
Jim Dine
Arthur Dove
Thomas Downing
Elsie Driggs
Guy Pène Du Bois
Carroll Dunham
Sam Durant
Jimmie Durham
Mabel Dwight
William Eggleston
Nicole Eisenman
Wharton Esherick
Walker Evans
Kevin Jerome Everson
Loretta Fahrenholz
Andreas Feininger
Lyonel Feininger
Duncan Ferguson
Rafael Ferrer
Paul Fiene
Morgan Fisher
John B. Flannagan
Hollis Frampton
Robert Frank
Andrea Fraser
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Hermine Freed
Jared French
Lee Friedlander
Brian Frye
Charles Gaines
Anna Gaskell
GCC
Gerald K. Geerlings

Hugo Gellert
Sandra Gibson
Luis Gispert
William Glackens
Milton Glaser
Robert Gober
Nan Goldin
Wayne Gonzales
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Boris Gorelick
Arshile Gorky
Dan Graham
William Gropper
Nancy Grossman
George Grosz
Louis Guglielmi
Philip Guston
Walter Gutman
Wade Guyton
Hans Haacke
Peter Halley
David Hammons
Keith Haring
Rachel Harrison
Marsden Hartley
David Hartt
David Haxton
Sharon Hayes
Al Held
Robert Henri
Carmen Herrera
Eva Hesse
Lewis Hine
Nancy Holt
Jenny Holzer
Edward Hopper
Roni Horn
Earl Horter
Alex Hubbard
Peter Hujar
Richard Hunt
Victoria Hutson Huntley
Robert Indiana
Abraham Jacobs
Ulysses Jenkins
Neil Jenney
Candy Jernigan
Jess
Jasper Johns
Rashid Johnson
Ray Johnson
William H. Johnson
Joan Jonas
Joe Jones
Philip Mallory Jones
Michael Joo
Donald Judd
Alex Katz
On Kawara
Mike Kelley
Ellsworth Kelly
Sister Corita Kent
Karen Kilimnik
William Klein
Franz Kline
Josh Kline
Jeff Koons
Lee Krasner
Barbara Kruger
Yasuo Kuniyoshi
Yayoi Kusama
Suzanne Lacy
David Lamelas
Dorothea Lange
Liz Magic Laser
Robert Laurent
Louise Lawler
Jacob Lawrence
An-My Lê
William Leavitt
Zoe Leonard
Alfred Leslie
Howard Lester
Sherrie Levine
Herschel Levit
Helen Levitt
Norman Lewis
Sol LeWitt
Roy Lichtenstein
Glenn Ligon
Kalup Linzy
Alvin Loving
Lee Lozano
Louis Lozowick
George Luks
Helen Lundeberg
Len Lye
Danny Lyon
Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Tala Madani
Man Ray
Sylvia Plimack Mangold
Robert Mapplethorpe
Christian Marclay
Brice Marden
Marisol
Kyra Markham
Reginald Marsh
Agnes Martin
Fletcher Martin
Gordon Matta-Clark
Cynthia Maughan
Keith Mayerson
Paul McCarthy
John McCracken
Adam McEwen
John McLaughlin
Josephine Meckseper
Jonas Mekas
Ana Mendieta
Sam Middleton
Aleksandra Mir
Joan Mitchell
Toyo Miyatake
Lisette Model
Donald Moffett
Abelardo Morell
Robert Morris
Mark Morrisroe
Gerald Murphy
Elizabeth Murray
Julie Murray
Reuben Nakian
Bruce Nauman
Alice Neel
Louise Nevelson

Barnett Newman
Isamu Noguchi
David Novros
Jim Nutt
Chiura Obata
Georgia O’Keeffe
Claes Oldenburg
Catherine Opie
Jose Clemente Orozco
Raphael Montañez Ortiz
Alfonso Ossorio
Tony Oursler
Bill Owens
Akosua Adoma Owusu
Nam June Paik
Gordon Parks
Agnes Pelton
I. Rice Pereira
Raymond Pettibon
Elizabeth Peyton
Paul Pfeiffer
Howardena Pindell
Adrian Piper
Horace Pippin
Lari Pittman
Jackson Pollock
Liliana Porter
Richard Pousette-Dart
Richard Prince
Nancy Elizabeth Prophet
Noah Purifoy
R. H. Quaytman
Walid Raad
Yvonne Rainer
Christina Ramberg
Robert Rauschenberg
Charles Ray
Luis Recoder
Jeffrey Reed
Robert Reed
Earl Reiback
Ad Reinhardt
Hans Richter
Faith Ringgold
Dorothea Rockburne
James Rosenquist
Martha Rosler
Theodore Roszak
Susan Rothenberg
Mark Rothko
Edward Ruscha
Morgan Russell
Betye Saar
David Salle
Lucas Samaras
Jacolby Satterwhite
Peter Saul
Matt Saunders
Morton Schamberg
Carolee Schneemann
Dana Schutz
Dread Scott
George Segal
Richard Serra
Ben Shahn
Joel Shapiro
Paul Sharits
Charles Sheeler
Cindy Sherman
Roger Shimomura
Everett Shinn
Amy Sillman
Laurie Simmons
Taryn Simon
Lorna Simpson
John Sloan
David Smith
Jack Smith
Kiki Smith
Tony Smith
Robert Smithson
Keith Sonnier
Edward Steichen
Ralph Steiner
Frank Stella
Joseph Stella
Harry Sternberg
Hedda Sterne
Florine Stettheimer
May Stevens
Alfred Stieglitz
John Storrs
Michelle Stuart
Sturtevant
Wayne Thiebaud
Alma Thomas
Rirkrit Tiravanija
George Tooker
Bill Traylor
Ryan Trecartin
Anne Truitt
Wu Tsang
Richard Tuttle
Cy Twombly
Stan VanDerBeek
Kara Walker
Kelley Walker
Carl Walters
Andy Warhol
Max Weber
Weegee
William Wegman
Lawrence Weiner
Tom Wesselmann
H.C. Westermann
Charles White
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Jack Whitten
Hannah Wilke
Christopher Williams
Sue Williams
Fred Wilson
Garry Winogrand
William Winter
Karl Wirsum
David Wojnarowicz
Jordan Wolfson
Martin Wong
Grant Wood
Francesca Woodman
Hale Aspacio Woodruff
Christopher Wool
Andrew Wyeth
William Zorach



Events



Watch


Hear From Artists

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.


In the News

“2015 was the Year of the Whitney…the cross-disciplinary approach taken by America Is Hard to See and Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, is becoming the model for a new generation of curators.”
Hyperallergic

“2015 belonged to the Whitney…both my museum—and my show—of the year.”
—Adrian Searle in The Guardian

"Best of 2015: Our Top 20 NYC Art Shows"
Hyperallergic

"The museum’s inaugural show in its new building, America Is Hard to See, tells a different story of modern and contemporary American art than the lily-white version we’re used to"
The New Yorker

Interview: Curator Scott Rothkopf speaks about America Is Hard to See on Slate's Culture Gabfest
Slate

"New Whitney Museum Signifies a Changing New York Art Scene"
The New York Times

"With its abundantly sumptuous holdings, the museum tells us how we got where we are, offering a teeming lineage of the art of this country"
Hyperallergic


"The Whitney Opens With a Winner"
Artnews

"Review: New Whitney Museum’s First Show, America Is Hard to See"
The New York Times

"Curators at the Whitney Museum of American Art discuss their largest exhibition to date at their new downtown location, designed by architect Renzo Piano"
The Wall Street Journal

"The exhibition will include plenty of crowd-pleasers—Hopper, O’Keeffe, Calder’s “Circus”—but, with the Whitney’s brilliant chief curator, Donna De Salvo, at the helm, expect major twists in the conventional art-historical plot."
The New Yorker

"The Whitney Museum, Soon to Open Its New Home, Searches for American Identity"
The New York Times

"One of this year's most anticipated art world events"
Huffington Post