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Jason Rhoades' 'Sutter’s Mill' to rejuvenate the Whitney Biennial in New York

The large-scale installation by American artist Jason Rhoades will occupy Whitney Museum’s fifth floor during the Whitney Biennial in New York City.

by STIRworldPublished on : Apr 20, 2022

Imagine stepping into a large-vacant space, and with each step that you take the walls around begin to reveal large scale installation art. Every single work immerses you deeper into a foreign exhilarating space. Exactly what the art biennials achieve to do. The Whitney Museum of American Art organises The Whitney Biennial, which has surveyed the landscape of American art, reflecting and shaping the cultural conversation, since 1932. It was initiated by the Museum's founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as an invitational exhibition that featured artwork created in the preceding two years, the biennials were originally organised by medium, with painting alternating with sculpture and works on paper. The 80th edition of the landmark exhibition is co-curated by David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. Titled Quiet as It’s Kept, the 2022 Biennial features an intergenerational and interdisciplinary group of 63 artists and collectives whose dynamic works reflect the challenges, complexities, and possibilities of the American experience today.

Jason Rhoades’ Sutter’s Mill assembled and dismantled on the museum’s fifth floor Image: Courtesy of whitneymuseum on Instagram

Jason Rhoades (1965-2016) is one of the artists participating in the Whitney Biennial 2022. The American artist whose focus of practice has been large scale installations, will showcase Sutter’s Mill. Assembled and dismantled over the course of the Biennial, the artwork is based on the California sawmill where the 1848 discovery of gold set off the California Gold Rush. A decade later, Nancy and Peter Gooch bought the land, a formerly enslaved couple who eventually owned more than 400 acres that were ultimately taken by the state under eminent domain laws to build a public park.

Rhoades states, “Once they realised that it was gold, the whole world shifted. All of a sudden, they saw gold everywhere… When something comes into focus, you see it. And this is like in a garden… where these things grow… when they become ripe, the whole system becomes literally and physically fruitful.”

Jason Rhoades’ Installation process for Sutter’s Mill | STIRworld
Jason Rhoades’ installation process for Sutter’s Mill Image: Courtesy of Whitney Museum

Rhoades’ sculptural installation highlights the conditions of manual working-class labour in dialogue with the United States’ history of wealth accumulation and financial speculation. Symbolising the constant tension between order and disorder, formation and destruction, that is involved in the process of making art. As per the official statement, the structure of Sutter’s Mill is built out of the wood platforms and aluminium poles repurposed from Rhoades’s monumental sculpture, Perfect World (1999). Two works by Rhoades will be included in the exhibition: first shown in 1996, Caprice (1996), will be installed outside on the largo of the museum, and Sutter's Mill (2000) will be installed on the third floor of the museum. Sutter's Mill has a performance aspect, in which the work is taken apart and then rebuilt over the course of a day by a team of three performers. The work will be performed every Friday from 12–8 pm during the run of the exhibition till September 2, 2022.

The curators, Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin | STIRworld
The curators, Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin Image: Courtesy of Whitney Museum

An art exhibition, Quiet as It’s Kept is on view until September 5, 2022, and is organised by David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. “Deliberately intergenerational and interdisciplinary, the Biennial proposes that cultural, aesthetic, and political possibility begins with meaningful exchange and reciprocity,” Breslin and Edwards noted. “We pursue a series of hunches throughout the exhibition: that abstraction demonstrates a tremendous capacity to create, share, and, sometimes withhold, meaning; that research-driven conceptual art can combine the lushness of ideas and materiality; that personal narratives sifted through political, literary, and pop cultures can address larger social frameworks; that artworks can complicate what ‘American’ means by addressing the country’s physical and psychological boundaries; and that our ‘now’ can be reimagined by engaging with under-recognised artistic models and artists we have lost.”

Whitney Biennale 2022 Installation View | STIRworld
Whitney Biennale 2022 installation view Image: Courtesy of Whitney Museum

Text by Vatsala Sethi, Assistant Editorial Coordinator (Arts)

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