HUMAN INTEREST: PORTRAITS FROM THE WHITNEY MUSEUM COLLECTION

HUMAN INTEREST: PORTRAITS FROM THE WHITNEY MUSEUM COLLECTION

Words by Diana McClure / Photography by Anders Jones

Full of life and character, the works on view in the Whitney Museum’s exhibition, Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, offer an eclectic mix of vivacious personalities in multiple artistic mediums.

Filling two floors, divided into multiple sections, a stroll through the exhibition may be reminiscent to some of a fantastical landscape of inanimate human beings caught in all manner of activities.  For savvy social media visitors it could feel similar to a meandering click-through of selfies on Instagram or Facebook.

However, two surprisingly inventive sculpted portraits offer viewers an enjoyable 3D take on figurative art.  One by Urs Fischer, Standing Julian, is a massive sculpture of artist Julian Schnabel made out of wax that also functions as a candle. The candle is lit every morning, blown out every night, and is intended to melt throughout the course of the exhibition.  The other, a woman lounging on a chair in her housecoat, sits at the forefront of one floor of the exhibition causing onlookers to do a double take as they step off the elevator.

The exhibition is broken down into specific areas, demarcated by wall partitions and entitled, New York Portraits, Street Life, Portraits of the Artist, Self-Conscious and Price of Fame among others.

Familiar faces don the walls of several sections including images of Jackie Onassis, James Dean, and Elvis.  Images by highly regarded photographers are also on view, including Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman.

An entire section entitled Institutional Complex engages portraiture from a political context with portraits of sneakers, fists and an industrial complex commenting on group identity and stereotypes. Several of the works in this section explore the boundaries of sculpture and are in visual conversation with pop culture iconography.

Throughout the exhibition small scale work draws viewers in close enticing them to explore details of not only artistic process, but also an array of quirky personalities.  Meanwhile, large-scale pieces mesmerize with their ability to potently present how timeless, glorious and bizarre it is to be a homo sapien.

Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection is on view through February 12, 2017.

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