Whitney Biennial 2014

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists as they discuss the thoughts, processes, and ideas behind their work in the 2014 Biennial. The guide also features commentary from Biennial curators Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner.

401—Gaylen Gerber, Backdrop, n.d.


GAYLEN GERBER: There’s a kind of confusion between the literal and the figurative, that the painting is made literally the size of the institutional wall and stands as a representation in front of it, and on top of that there are other artists’ work. 


NARRATOR: Gaylen Gerber. 


GAYLEN GERBER: In rotating the artwork on top of my painting, it becomes apparent that my painting is a kind of more stable ground. In some way that’s a big part of the content, that it becomes an institutional ground in some way. 


NARRATOR: Gerber invited three artists to exhibit their work on Backdrop. Two paintings by Trevor Shimizu will be up the first portion of the Biennial. Later on, there will be one work each by Sherrie Levine and David Hammons. In different ways, all three artists create distinct personas and investigate questions of authorship.   


MICHELLE GRABNER: The idea of authorship is very interesting when I think about Gaylen, that he creates this backdrop or platform for other artists.


NARRATOR: Michelle Grabner, curator of the fourth floor of the Biennial. 


MICHELLE GRABNER: And it’s interesting because it’s a generous position, he’s offering up a backdrop, a wall in which other artists can hang their work. At the same time authorship works the other way, where if he’s hanging a Sherrie Levine or a David Hammons on it, he absorbs some of their understanding, their history, their work, how we come to know them within the contemporary art landscape. 


GAYLEN GERBER: And it has to do with the permeability between artists, the idea that sometimes things add up to more than the sum of the parts.


MICHELLE GRABNER: My favorite moment is when you walk around the corner of the painting and you realize it is a painting, it is a stretched canvas. It may look like a wall, architecture. And even its grayness looks as if it could be reflected color from the slate floor or from the concrete coffers in the ceiling and then you realize that there’s fabric that’s stretched over a support, a giant painting support, it’s kind of a wonderful thing. 


Gaylen Gerber with Trevor Shimizu, _Backdrop/Untitled_, n.d., _Untitled_, n.d., n.d. Latex on canvas, oil on canvas, and oil on canvas, 208 x 528 in. (528.3 x 1341.1 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Wallspace. Trevor Shimizu, _Untitled_, n.d. Collection of Jessica Macias; _Untitled_, n.d. Collection of the artist; courtesy 47 Canal, New York