An Incomplete History of Protest
Audio Guide Playlist

“I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. I’m a visual artist.”
—Dread Scott

Hear directly from artists including Dread Scott, Senga Nengudi, and Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds as they discuss their work in An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017. Listen to additional commentary from curators on selected highlights from the exhibition.


David Breslin: My name is David Breslin. I'm the DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection here at the Whitney.

Ad Reinhardt is an artist known mostly for doing abstract paintings. Beginning in the early 1950s he began to make works that, upon first impression, only look like a field of black, but Ad Reinhardt was an artist who was deeply engaged in political issues. In the thirties and forties, he did the satirical cartoons for leftist newspapers and journals. Part of the thinking of including one of Reinhardt's black paintings was to think about artists who are known for making studio-based works, or a painting, that doesn't look political. How might we think of those having some political undertones, at different moments? 

So for these paintings that he began in 1953 and worked on until his death in 1967, Reinhardt tried to strip away almost everything extraneous from them. And he has this great series of statements where he discusses them by what they aren't, or what they don't have. He called them neutral and shapeless, not large, formless. And when you read these series of “nos” or “withouts” or “absences” you also see him rehearsing a whole idea of negation or resistance. Resistance to the status quo. Resistance to the history of painting. Resistance to the standards of the day. In a gallery where we are thinking about what resistance looked like to different artist of that moment it seemed interesting, if not crucial, to include abstraction in that argument and to think about Reinhardt in that context.


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