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Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019

Nov 22, 2019–Feb 20, 2022

Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums. The traces of the artists’ hands-on engagement with their materials invite viewers to imagine how it might feel to make each work.

While artists’ reasons for taking up craft range widely, many aim to subvert prevalent standards of so-called “fine art,” often in direct response to the politics of their time. In challenging accepted ideas of taste—whether by embracing the decorative or turning away from traditional painting and sculpture in favor of functional items like bowls or blankets—these artists reclaim visual languages that have typically been coded as feminine, domestic, or vernacular. By highlighting marginalized modes of artistic production, these artists challenge the power structures that determine artistic value.

This exhibition provides new perspectives on subjects that have been central to artists, including abstraction, popular culture, feminist and queer aesthetics, and recent explorations of identity and relationships to place. Together, the works demonstrate that craft-informed techniques of making carry their own kind of knowledge, one that is crucial to a more complete understanding of the history and potential of art.

Drawn primarily from the Whitney’s collection, the exhibition will include over eighty works by more than sixty artists, including Ruth Asawa, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, Liza Lou, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine Reichek, and Lenore Tawney, as well as featuring new acquisitions by Shan Goshorn, Kahlil Robert Irving, Simone Leigh, Jordan Nassar, and Erin Jane Nelson.

Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 is curated by Jennie Goldstein, Assistant Curator, and Elisabeth Sherman, Assistant Curator, with Ambika Trasi, Curatorial Assistant.

Support for Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 is provided by the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.


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Hear from the artists and curators about works in the exhibition.

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Explore works from this exhibition
in the Whitney's collection

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In the News

"This is not your mother’s craft show." —artnet News

"Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 casts a broad net over the museum’s permanent collection and comes up with a haul of interesting connections." —Artsy

"Whitney curators Jennie Goldstein and Elisabeth Sherman have assembled a compelling argument for the importance of craft in contemporary art over the past 70 years." —Galerie

"Making Knowing is a useful and corrective survey of craft’s presence in postwar U.S. art." Mousse Magazine

"The crafted artworks in Making Knowing demonstrate the value of things handmade throughout art history. The works reconcile creative expression within broader culture, using the imagination as a voice." CR Fashion Book 

"[A] long overdue boon for any ardent supporter of this previously maligned visual field." Architectural Digest