An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017 at Whitney Museum of American Art, from August 18, 2017

“Through the lens of the Whitney’s collection, An Incomplete History of Protest looks at how artists from the 1940s to the present have confronted the political and social issues of their day. Whether making art as a form of activism, criticism, instruction, or inspiration, the featured artists see their work as essential to challenging established thought and realizing a more equitable culture. Many have sought immediate change, such as ending the war in Vietnam or combating the AIDS crisis. Others have engaged with protest more indirectly, with the long term in mind, hoping to create new ways of imagining society and citizenship.

Since its founding in the early twentieth century, the Whitney has served as a forum for the most urgent art and ideas of the day, at times itself attracting protest. An Incomplete History of Protest, however, is by name and necessity a limited account. No exhibition can approximate the activism now happening in the streets and online, and no collection can account fully for the methodological, stylistic, and political complexity of artistic address. Instead, the exhibition offers a sequence of historical case studies focused on particular moments and concepts—from questions of representation to the fight for civil rights—that remain relevant today. At its root is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.” — Introductory Wall Text

Toyo Miyatake (1895–1979), Untitled (Opening Image from Valediction), 1944. Gelatin silver print mounted on board, 9 7/16 x 7 5/16 in. (24 x 18.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Photography Committee  2014.243 © Toyo Miyatake Studio

Gordon Parks (1912-2006), Bandaged Hands, Muhammad Ali, 1966. Gelatin silver print, 13 5/16 x 9 1/4 in. (33.8 x 23.5 cm). Purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund at The Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc., and Michèle Gerber Klein 98.59 Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation

Carol Summers (1925-2016), Kill for Peace, 1967, from ARTISTS AND WRITERS PROTEST AGAINST THE WAR IN VIET NAM, 1967. Screenprint and photo-screenprint with punctures on board, 23 3/8 x 19 1/4 in. (59.4 x 48.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee 2006.50.14 © Alexander Ethan Summers

Vietnam Referendum ’70, Let the People Vote on War!, 1970. Offset lithograph, 19 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (49.5 x 34.3 cm). Purchase, with funds from The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President 2017.10.341

May Stevens (b. 1924), Dark Flag, 1976. Acrylic on canvas, 60 1/8 x 60 1/8 in. (152.7 x 152.7 cm). Gift of the artist 2005.34 © May Stevens; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York

Guerrilla Girls (est. 1985), Guerrilla Girls Review the Whitney, 1987. Offset lithograph, 22 x 17 in. (55.9 x 43.2 cm). Purchase 2000.91 © Guerrilla Girls

Donald Moffett (b. 1955), He Kills Me, 1987. Offset lithograph, 23 1/2 x 37 1/2 in. (59.7 x 95.3 cm). Gift of David W. Kiehl in memory of artists and artworkers who died of AIDS 2012.160 © Donald Moffett

Edgar Heap of Birds (b. 1954), Relocate Destroy, In Memory of Native Americans, In Memory of Jews, 1987, from American Policy, 1987. Pastel on paper, 22 x 29 13/16 in. (55.9 x 75.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf and Hinrich Peiper 2007.91

Keith Haring (1958-1990), Ignorance = Fear / Silence = Death, 1989. Offset lithograph, 24 1/16 x 43 1/16 in. (61.1 x 109.4 cm). Gift of David W. Kiehl in honor of Patrick Moore 2014.265 Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation

Annette Lemieux (b. 1957), Black Mass, 1991. Latex, rhoplex, gesso, and oil on canvas, 95 13/16 x 105 x 1 13/16 in. (243.4 x 266.7 x 4.6 cm). Promised gift of Emily Fischer Landau P.2010.173 © Annette Lemieux

Theaster Gates (b. 1973), Minority Majority, 2012. Decommissioned fire hoses and vinyl on plywood, 66 x 111 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (167.6 x 283.2 x 9.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Barbara and Michael Gamson 2016.262 © Theaster Gates. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)

An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017 is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection; Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator; and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator; with David Kiehl, curator emeritus; and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.

Images courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art.