Artist Date | 2 Shows at The Whitney

Travelling back to New York City allowed me to visit an old-favorite for Artist Dates: the Whitney. Between new temporary exhibitions, bedazzled art installations, and navigating abstraction with my 11 year-old son Ludovico, it was a trip for the senses.

Currently on exhibition is the work of Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu. She has this almost graphic, minimalist, elegant style where from that background emerges these irrational swatches of colors that repeat geometrically. It’s a splattering of a color. Not a messy splatter, rather, but a sense of portraying emotion that was palpable.

The size is immense. The huge panels seemed to invite the viewer into the world of the canvas. In this large space, the choices of these colorful marking seemed both loud and intimate at the same time.

However, while my son has been a regular on my Artist Dates, I also realize that abstraction is not necessarily the easiest to grasp for children. In fact, developmentally speaking, figuration makes more sense for his age.

Together, we viewed Liza Lou’s incredibly immersive installation The Kitchen. Aesthetically speaking, it’s hard to argue it’s anything but captivating- for viewers of all ages. A gem-crusted kitchen is presented in life size, down to the minute details of branded cereal boxes and an overflowing kitchen sink.

At the same time, this exhibition also allowed a starting point for conversations together about what are can do. What can artists use their work to express? In our case, we ended up at a discussion noting the feminism of Lou’s work. In a type of art “I-Spy,” we identified hints of the artist’s message- like the dish soap labeled ‘Joy.’

The trip to the Whitney, and viewing these two artist, offered a striking juxtaposition. Both utilizing powerful bursts of color, but in decidedly different ways. Even in style, both female artists allowed their own narrative to come across in their work in a surprising ways. In a way, I suppose this is the role both artist and museums: finding ways to harmonize disparate elements into something beautiful.