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.

Dona Nelson, String Beings, 2013

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Narrator: Both of these paintings by Dona Nelson are suspended from the ceiling, making both sides visible. In each case, the back is as important as the front. Here, Nelson talks about making the predominantly red-and-orange one, String Beings.

Dona Nelson: I have an assistant that stands on the other side of the canvas. I have painted a lot of string, all different colors, and then I take an ice pick, and I'll just randomly punch a lot of holes through the canvas, which is very fun to do and scary, kind of [laughs].

Then my assistant, in this case it was Christine Mills, who's a video artist, she stood on the other side, and I would push the painted string, which is stiff through the hole, then she takes it, and then she pushes it through another hole. This is very random and very much dependent on what hole she pushes it through [laughs].

It kind of comes off, as if—I think—from the back, as if the string is actually holding the canvas together.

One thing that interests me the most is color. When color becomes material, I'm really interested in that. I'm really interested in color the way it is in the world, like red brick, gray concrete sidewalks.

When you put a bunch of string into a mess of paint, and the string takes on the color, the canvas also takes the color in unpredictable ways. The color is not separate from the canvas, from the string, from the essential materials of the painting. The color is not just on the surface of the canvas.

An installation view of artworks in a gallery.

Narrator: Both of these paintings by Dona Nelson are suspended from the ceiling, making both sides visible. In each case, the back is as important as the front. Here, Nelson talks about making the predominantly red-and-orange one, String Beings.

Dona Nelson: I have an assistant that stands on the other side of the canvas. I have painted a lot of string, all different colors, and then I take an ice pick, and I'll just randomly punch a lot of holes through the canvas, which is very fun to do and scary, kind of [laughs].

Then my assistant, in this case it was Christine Mills, who's a video artist, she stood on the other side, and I would push the painted string, which is stiff through the hole, then she takes it, and then she pushes it through another hole. This is very random and very much dependent on what hole she pushes it through [laughs].

It kind of comes off, as if—I think—from the back, as if the string is actually holding the canvas together.

One thing that interests me the most is color. When color becomes material, I'm really interested in that. I'm really interested in color the way it is in the world, like red brick, gray concrete sidewalks.

When you put a bunch of string into a mess of paint, and the string takes on the color, the canvas also takes the color in unpredictable ways. The color is not separate from the canvas, from the string, from the essential materials of the painting. The color is not just on the surface of the canvas.


Dona Nelson, Installation view, String Beings, 2013. Acrylic and painted string on canvas, 82 x 82 in. (208.3 x 208.3 cm); Okie Dokie, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 78 x 83 in. (198.1 x 210.8 cm). Both works: Collection of the artist; courtesy Thomas Erben Gallery, New York