‘Quiet as It’s Kept,’ the Whitney’s 2022 Biennial, Promises Shapeshifting

Eight artists asked to withdraw from the Whitney's 2019 Biennial, so all eyes are on the museum to see what happens next.

Andrew Roberts, detail from ‘La Horda (The horde), 2020. Image courtesy the
artist and Pequod Co., Mexico City.

Over the past few years of concentrated scrutiny, the Whitney Museum of American Art has stood in as a flashpoint for overarching debates in the art world, and the Whitney Biennial in particular has consistently commanded attention. Eight artists featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial requested that their work be removed in protest of the presence of former board member Warren B. Kanders; the museum promised to honor these requests and Kanders later resigned. Only two years later, conditions in the world feel as though they’ve only grown more heightened and charged, and the Whitney has just released its 2022 Biennial roster.

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Co-organized by curators David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards, “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Keptgets its title from the common colloquialism, but Breslin and Edwards also cite inspirations including the artist David Hammons and novelist Toni Morrison; in statements, they emphasized that this year’s biennial will have an improvisational and adaptive feel, with intergenerational and interdisciplinary participants.

And indeed, the contributor list is stacked: Moved by the Motion, a collaborative project founded in 2016 by Wu Tsang and Tosh Basco, consists of a rotating cast of interdisciplinary participants that includes a diverse range of talents from electronic musicians to scholar Fred Moten. A screencap from Andrew Roberts’ video installation La Horda shows a bloodied, bruised and dead-eyed man on the subway dressed in an Uber Eats uniform. Then there’s Alex Da Corte, who recently landed the Met’s coveted rooftop exhibition commission; Alfredo Jaar, Ellen Gallagher, Lucy Raven, Na Mira and many others.

“Rather than proposing a unified theme, we pursue a series of hunches throughout the exhibition: that abstraction demonstrates a tremendous capacity to create, share, and, sometimes withhold,” Breslin and Edwards said in a statement. “Artworks can complicate what ‘American’ means by addressing the country’s physical and psychological boundaries…our ‘now’ can be reimagined by  engaging with under-recognized artistic models and artists we’ve lost.” 

‘Quiet as It’s Kept,’ the Whitney’s 2022 Biennial, Promises Shapeshifting