Robert Whitman

Robert Whitman has been a pioneer and central protagonist of New York’s 1960s new art movements. Today, his work, ideas and methodology can be seen to have a far-reaching impact on contemporary practice in the New York and broader international art scene. His performances and installations are exceptional fixed points within the collective aesthetic memory of the last four decades of U.S. art practice – thus giving his work a near meta-historical perspective of reception. Whitman laid out foundational concepts for multimedia performance and installation. His seminal performances such as The American Moon (1960), Flower (1963), Nighttime Sky (1965), Prune Flat (1965) and Light Touch (1976) were aiming at a total environment, created by deliberately ‘poor’ props and stage settings that were brought to high illusionary effect while never concealing their true nature. Whitman’s props bordered on debris; they represented the inversions of an outside reality and celebrated the ephemeral and the eccentric. The film image became a central protagonist within a Whitman performance, or the essential core of an installation. The synesthesia of a Whitman piece was aiming at the creation of an image.