Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960 at Whitney Museum of American Art, Opens April 28, 2017

“Focusing on works made from 1900 to 1960, Where We Are traces how artists have approached the relationships, institutions, and activities that shape our lives. Drawn entirely from the Whitney’s holdings, the exhibition is organized around five themes: family and community, work, home, the spiritual, and the nation. During the six decades covered here, the United States experienced war and peace, economic collapse and recovery, and social discord and progress. American artists responded in complex and diverse ways, and a central aim of the exhibition is to honor each artist’s efforts to create her or his own vision of American life. The artists and their works suggest that our sense of self is composed ofour responsibilities, places, and beliefs.

Where We Are, as well as each of its sections, is titled after a phrase in W. H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939.” Auden, who was raised in England, wrote the poem in New York shortly after his immigration to the United States and at the very outset of World War II. The title of the poem marks the date Germany invaded Poland. While its subject is the beginning of the war, Auden’s true theme is how the shadow of a global emergency reaches into the far corners of everyday life. Although mournful, the poem concludes by pointing to the individual’s capacity to “show an affirming flame.” Where We Are shares Auden’s guarded optimism, gathering a constellation of artists whose light might lead us forward.” — Introductory Wall Text

Charles Demuth (1883-1935). Buildings, Lancaster, 1930. Oil and graphite pencil on composition board, 24 1/8 × 20 1/8in. (61.3 × 51.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of an anonymous donor 58.63.

Edward Hopper (1882-1967). (Three Studies: Man with Eyes Closed and Two Men’s Heads in Profile), (1899-1906). Charcoal on paper, Sheet (Irregular): 18 13/16 × 12 1/4in. (47.8 × 31.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1508ab © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by Whitney Museum of American Art.

Fairfield Porter (1907-1975). Portrait of Ted Carey and Andy Warhol, 1960. Oil on linen, 40 × 40 1/8in. (101.6 × 101.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Andy Warhol 74.117 © 2017 The Estate of Fairfield Porter/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY.

Herman Trunk, Jr., (1894-1963). Mount Vernon, 1932. Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 × 46 1/16in. (87 × 117 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 33.26. With Permission of The Herman Trunk, Jr. Foundation.

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000). War Series: Prayer, 1947 from War Series. Tempera on composition board,: 16 1/8 × 20 1/4in. (41 × 51.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy R. Neuberger 51.6 © 2017 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, N.Y.

John Steuart Curry (1897-1946). Baptism in Kansas, 1928. Oil on canvas, 40 1/4 × 50 1/4in. (102.2 × 127.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.159.

Where We Are is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, with Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator, and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.

Images courtesy Whitney Museum  of American Art.