December 9, 2004 - Whitney Museum of American Art - Fight or Flight
December 9, 2004

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight
04 November 2004 - 18 February 2005

120 park Avenue @ 42nd Street
New York, NY


Amy Gartrell: Banners From the Church of You, I Must Not Fear (The Whitney Against Fear), 2004   
Fight or Flight:
Kristin Baker, Amy Gartrell, Rico Gatson, Wangechi Mutu, Marc Swanson, and Ivan Witenstein

Fight or Flight: Kristin Baker, Amy Gartrell, Rico Gatson, Wangechi Mutu, Marc Swanson, and Ivan Witenstein

From November 4, 2004 through February 18, 2005, the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria will present the exhibition Fight or Flight. The idea of fight or flight refers to the involuntary bodily reaction of humans or animals when faced with a sudden, unexpected threat. This exhibition draws on the pervasive discussions of fear and anxiety that have emerged in the popular press in recent years, clearly related to our turbulent times. Each of the featured artists was asked to consider this topic and respond accordingly, and in doing so, the work that was created for this exhibition engages both the scientific response and psychological application of fight or flight. Ranging from small-scale painting to video work and sculptural installation, these commissioned works by six artists will be on view throughout the Gallery and Sculpture Court at the Altria Building.

Kristin Bakers large scale painting Ride to Live, Live to Ride embodies ideas of speed, violence, and directness by drawing on tensions between formal abstraction and representation. Synthesized from personal and popular cultural experiences such as car racing, Bakers paintings challenge male aesthetics and painterly techniques through subject matter, scale, and brushwork. Known for using body shop paints and PVC sign board material, Baker has recently elaborated her approach into more abstracted use of forms and abstract geometries animated by velocity, depth, and occasional chaos.

Amy Gartrells Banners From the Church of You manifests instinct and mantras, warnings and validations, as common psychological responses to fear. Crafted from acidic and neon colored felt, the large-scale hanging banners in the Sculpture Court feature phrases such as Try harder and I am fairly certain it will be okay. Referencing the visual imagery of 60s social and anti-war movements, Gartrells pseudo-heraldic banners play on notions of noble adornment, inspirational language, and utopian sentimentality.

Rico Gatsons video installation Malicious Indifference is a stylized approximation of a suburban basement TV room consisting of multiple monitors mounted on a wood veneer wall surface. Characteristic of his work, the installation investigates issues such as race, violence, and social politics while presenting visual information that allows the viewer to form opinions about commodified violence and myth. Through digital manipulation, Gatson explores racial identity within visual popular culture by balancing aesthetics of abstraction and colorful stylization with direct references to cultural instances and objects.

Wangechi Mutus work explores adaptation and mutation as a response to issues of gender, ethnicity, and history. The distended and mutilated figure is a central part of Mutus sculpture and collage work. Incorporating images of the female figure gleaned from machine parts, ethnology books, and contemporary magazines, Hangin in employs formal techniques directly on the wall that mimic both disease and architectural destruction. In the installation, animal fur, leaking wine bottles, and wall drawings are used to highlight and symbolically exorcise the history of mass brutality.

Marc Swansons installation of a large wooden ships mast and tattered sail jutting from an existing Sculpture Court flowerbed simultaneously plays with both fight and flight imagery. Referencing Theodore Gericaults The Raft of Medusa and the Romantic depiction of heroism in battle, the artists dual representation of a masted ship monumentalizes the instrument of military might yet reveals that it has also gone adrift.

Ivan Witensteins work makes an allegorical relationship to world events past and present by revealing tensions between myth and rationalism. Inspired in part by Fantasias Night on Bald Mountain, the fiberglass and epoxy resin sculptures capture the transitional moment between the sacred and the profane. The two pieces, Bad habits die hard, I hope I die hard; Girl’s song for a blessed sun and Light a fire so the world will be brighter, black knight, die and live free, separately represent the triumph or defeat of an ideology.

Fight or Flight: Kristin Baker, Amy Gartrell, Rico Gatson, Wangechi Mutu, Marc Swanson, and Ivan Witenstein is accompanied by a free brochure with an essay by Shamim M. Momin. Free gallery talks are offered every Wednesday and Friday at 1:00 p.m.

Two special free artist talks have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. The first talk, on Tuesday, January 11th at 6:30 pm, includes the artists Kristin Baker, Marc Swanson and Ivan Witenstein. The following second talk on Tuesday, January 25th at 6:30 pm, includes artists Amy Gartrell, Rico Gaston and Wangechi Mutu.

The Whitney Museum at Altria is funded by Altria Group, Inc.
Visitor Information
Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria is located at 120 Park Avenue at 42nd Street. Gallery hours: Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sculpture Court Hours: Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday and holidays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission to the Whitney Museum at Altria is free.

Whitney Museum of American Art
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