Kevin Beasley at Whitney Museum of American Art

Kevin Beasley at Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art is exhibiting “A view of a landscape” by Kevin Beasley through March 10, 2019. 

The exhibition is arranged in three rooms and explores themes of land, labor, and history, and features complex sonic and visual landscapes.

“In one room, the cotton gin turns — silent, ceaseless — behind a soundproof chamber. Inside the chamber, several microphones of various size and sensitivity are suspended by looping cables to capture the many sounds of the motor. The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney (a distant relative to Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, for whom the museum was named), was designed to separate the cotton fibers from the seeds. But here, sound, not cotton is what’s extracted,” the museum says.

Another room has custom-built speakers designed to “sculpt an audio space” and capable of producing club-level noise, play the mechanical sounds of the cotton-gin motor. There are three less conceptual and yet impressive large-scale “slab” sculptures, which are freestanding, highly tactile collages, about six inches, or 15 centimeters, thick. 

“Reunion,” alludes to Beasley’s first encounter with cotton, just 100 miles from where he grew up in Virginia. Fossilized in “The Acquisition,” 2018, which references Beasley’s trip to Alabama to retrieve the cotton gin, are work gloves, denim overalls, a laptop, soundboard, headphones, and an industrial fan, among other things. Most noteworthy are the shirts, which are framed by the collar and caved in to appear hooded. From a distance, these faceless beings hover like ghosts.

“In a country where historical trauma is handled, more often than not, on an individual basis, Beasley compels the public to collectively reflect on our shared and messy history. Each piece is a result of Beasley’s labor toward some kind of reconciliation: from the cotton gin repurposed into a musical instrument, to ‘Campus,’ 2018, a meeting ground for the three main actors in this exhibition: the artist Beasley, the inventor Whitney, and, by extension, the Whitney Museum. As illustrated by the cotton gin turning continuously, Beasley understands reconciliation to be an ongoing process,” adds the museum. 

For details visit:

Artist biography:

Founder: Louise Blouin  



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