June 28th, 2023–February 2024
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
New York, NY, 10014
The Whitney Museum of American Art has announced Inheritance, an exhibition that will feature artworks by 43 prominent artists and examine the impacts of legacy on familial, historical, and aesthetic lines. Inheritance will open on June 28, 2023 and will be on view through February 2024 in the Whitney’s sixth-floor galleries.
Inheritance was organized by Rujeko Hockley, Arnhold Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition features primarily new additions and rarely-seen artworks, including paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, drawings, and time-based media installations. These works, which span the last five decades, beg the question of what has been passed on and how those things might shift or live again.
Among the exhibiting artists are Ephraim Asili, Sadie Barnette, Kevin Beasley, Diedrick Brackens, Beverly Buchanan, Widline Cadet, Andrea Carlson, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Ralston Crawford, Mary Beth Edelson, John Edmonds, Kevin Jerome Everson, Chitra Ganesh, Todd Gray, Wade Guyton, David Hartt, Emily Jacir, Wakeah Jhane, Mary Kelly, Deana Lawson, An-My Lê, Maggie Lee, Sherrie Levine, Dindga McCannon, Ana Mendieta, Thaddeus Mosley, Lorraine O’Grady, Kambui Olujimi, John Outterbridge, Pat Phillips, Faith Ringgold, Sophie Rivera, Carissa Rodriguez, Cameron Rowland, Sturtevant, Hank Willis Thomas, Clarissa Tossin, WangShui, Kara Walker, Joan Wallace, Carrie Mae Weems, and Bruce and Norman Yonemoto.
This exhibition draws inspiration from Ephraim Asili’s 2020 film The Inheritance, a scripted drama that depicts characters attempting to reach a political consensus. The film explores the history of the MOVE Organization, the Black Arts Movement, and Asili’s time in the Black Marxist collective. The collection, however, takes a more layered approach by considering multiple meanings of “inheritance” and weaving narrative with documentary, personal experiences, and historical events.
Jane Panetta, the Whitney’s Nancy and Fred Poses Curator and Director of the Collection, addressed the various facets of the exhibition, “With the inclusion of so many new acquisitions and works rarely on view at the Museum, Inheritance offers a unique opportunity to frame the Whitney’s collection and to introduce new artists and works of art while making a powerful argument about the relationship between the past and present through this idea of inheritance.”
Inheritance is organized thematically, beginning with an interdisciplinary selection of artworks that explore “inheritance” as it is commonly understood – among families and generations. These works include Sadie Barnette’s installation Family Tree II (2022), Mary Kelly’s film Antepartum (1973), and photographs from Sophie Rivera’s “Double Exposure” series (1995), and Lorraine O’Grady’s “Rivers, First Draft” (1982, printed 2015). Other artists examine influential art history and political movements of the twentieth century, including John Edmonds’s photograph “Tête d’Homme” (2018), Hank Willis Thomas’s sculpture “Strike” (2018), and Joan Wallace’s “Bob’s Your Uncle” (1991).
Additionally, other artworks in the exhibition explore some of the more painful and difficult inheritances that have shaped our society, especially colonialism and the enslavement of Africans. These artworks include Kara Walker’s “…calling to me from the angry surface of some grey and threatening sea, I was transported” (2007), Kevin Beasley’s slab sculpture “The Road” (2019), An-My Lê’s photograph “Monument, General P.G.T. Beauregard, New Orleans, Louisiana” (2016), and Faith Ringgold’s lithograph “United States of Attica” (1971).
The final selection of artworks in the exhibition focus on the inheritance of ancestral memory across generations, primarily considering the Global South and global Indigenous communities. This grouping includes works by John Outterbridge, Ana Mendieta, and Andrea Carlson and analyzes the origins of culture and beliefs.
Together, the thematic organization of Inheritance allows the artists and their artworks to tell a story of human resilience and shared history, which continues to shape the present and future. The Whitney is open for public viewing Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 10:30 am–6 pm; Friday, 10:30 am–10 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 am–6 pm.