Preparatory Sketch for American Moon Performance (1960) by Robert Whitman

Robert Whitman

American Moon

On View
Jan 18 – Feb 4, 2023
New York
 
Program Details:

Robert Whitman
American Moon

Gallery Exhibition:

Jan 18 – Feb 4, 2023
508 West 25th Street
New York

Pace Live Performance Series:

Jan 18 – Jan 20, 2023
Reserve Tickets

New Worlds NFT Series:

Release date: Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023
12 PM EST
Learn More

Online Exhibition:

Jan 18 – Feb 10, 2023
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Press:

Press Release

Connect:

@pacegallery

Above: Robert Whitman, Preparatory Sketch for American Moon Performance (1960), 1959 © Robert Whitman

Pace is pleased to present a multifaceted program—comprising an in-person exhibition, an accompanying performance series organized by Pace Live, a dedicated online viewing room, and a new generative NFT series—dedicated to Robert Whitman.

The in-person and online exhibitions, along with the live performances, will focus on the artist’s seminal 1960 performance work American Moon, a production realized as part of the experimental Happenings scene on New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The release of Whitman’s first-ever web3 project—which transports viewers to otherworldly, cosmic landscapes beyond the Earth—will coincide with the exhibitions and live events centering on American Moon.

A pioneer of performance and multimedia installation art, Whitman has devoted his career to exploration and collaboration. He was a major figure in the ephemeral Happenings—a hybrid art form spanning installation, performance, and other mediums that is foundational in Pace’s history and its interdisciplinary program today— presented in New York in the postwar years by a group of artists that also included Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, Jim Dine, and Red Grooms. Whitman was at the vanguard of scientifically and technologically engaged art making during this period, co-founding the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a collective that supported creative partnerships between artists and engineers, in 1967.

The five performances of American Moon, which will feature a recreation of Whitman’s original set for the work, will take place from January 18 to 20 at the gallery’s 508 West 25th Street location. This set will serve as the cornerstone of the physical exhibition, on view from January 18 to February 4. A selection of preparatory drawings Whitman created for the 1960 performance will be displayed alongside the set, and these works on paper will be the subject of a focused online exhibition from January 18 to February 10.

On the occasion of this performance series and exhibition with Pace in New York, Whitman will also unveil his first NFT project, titled New Worlds and produced as part of the expansive partnership between Pace Verso, the gallery’s web3 hub, and the leading generative art platform Art Blocks. The interactive and generative New Worlds NFTs, which depict imagined planetary bodies in space, are based on Whitman’s projections of planets and moons presented in his solo exhibition Turning at Pace’s New York gallery in 2007. The planets in the NFTs feature distinctive colors and patterns on their surfaces, and they are situated in vast skies rendered in varying hues and opacities. Viewers can navigate around the planets and explore the celestial environments by zooming in and out and dragging their cursors on the screen. Selections from the New Worlds NFT series will be exhibited on screens in Whitman’s physical exhibition at Pace’s New York gallery. New Worlds is realized by Art Blocks and Pace Verso in conjunction with Digital Practice, an artist-focused web3 creative agency that worked in close concert with Whitman on project conceptualization, art direction, and development.

Pace’s forthcoming presentations of American Moon and Whitman’s NFT release situate his influential practice in a contemporary context, bringing his artistic achievements and innovations to new audiences. Together, the components of this hybrid program—which traverses physical and digital mediums—reflect the limber, rigorous, and timeless nature of the artist’s work and showcase the breadth of his oeuvre across various formats.

American Moon premiered at the Reuben Gallery in New York on November 29, 1960, and the work was performed some ten times through early December of that year. The original presentation of American Moon—for which the artist constructed an immersive environment made with construction paper, used fabrics, and scrap lumber— featured Whitman himself, fellow artists Lucas Samaras and Simone Forti, and other performers. Incorporating flashes of light, moments of total darkness, film projections, and cacophonous sounds, American Moon induced feelings of awe and disorientation in audience members, who watched the event from semi-enclosed tunnels built as part of the set. The final portion of the performance saw Samaras suspended on a swing above the installation.

“The thing about theater that most interests me is that it takes time,” Whitman once said. “Time for me is something material. I like to use it that way. It can be used in the same way as paint or plaster or any other material. It can describe other natural events.”

In her book Happenings: New York, 1958-1963, Milly Glimcher writes that, amid the production and debut of American Moon, “John F. Kennedy had just been elected—the first glamorous, media-savvy president—and hopes were high for a new approach to culture and world relations.” Glimcher continues, “For American Moon, Whitman spent three weeks clearing and rebuilding the interior of the gallery ... Whitman believes the homemade, rough quality of the construction gave the work an organic and authentic quality.”

The upcoming rendition of Whitman’s American Moon at Pace’s New York gallery is produced by Pace Live, the gallery’s interdisciplinary platform for commissioning and presenting new live art performances, musical acts, and other events. The four showings of American Moon—staged over the course of three days amid a structure of scaffolding, fabric, craft paper, burlap, and varied props—will each include six performers. The set, along with Whitman’s sketches for the 1960 iteration of the work, will remain on view for visitors to experience through February 4. Further information about the performances of American Moon will be released in the coming weeks.

 
Whitman Performance Splash

Pace Live

American Moon

Performance Series

January 18 – 20
New York

Pace is pleased to present a restaging of Whitman's American Moon, first performed in 1960, over the course of three evenings, featuring a recreation of Whitman’s original set and engaging a new generation of New York-based performers.

Learn More & Reserve Tickets

 

Art Blocks x Pace Verso

New Worlds

NFT Series

Released Wednesday, Jan 25
12 PM ET

Robert Whitman’s first-ever NFT project, New Worlds, presented as part of our collaboration with generative art platform Art Blocks, transports viewers to otherworldly, cosmic landscapes beyond the Earth. Each of the 500 generative, interactive, and unique New Worlds NFTs centers on an imagined celestial body in space.

Explore Now

 
Films

New Worlds: Robert Whitman’s First NFTs

In our new film, Robert Whitman discusses his first-ever web3 project and Pace Live Curatorial Director Mark Beasley sheds light on the artist's contributions to the histories of performance and technologically engaged art making.

 
GettyImages-538610175
Essays

A Brief History of Robert Whitman’s Early Experimentations in Art and Technology

By Claire Selvin

On the occasion of American Moon, writer Claire Selvin investigates Robert Whitman’s early explorations in technology that put him at the vanguard of a new mode of art making throughout his seven-decade career.

Read Now

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Essays

‘A Whole New World of Art Making’

Milly Glimcher and Mark Beasley on New York’s Legendary Happening

In this interview, Milly Glimcher, author of Happenings: New York, 1958-1963, and Pace Live Curatorial Director Mark Beasley discuss the profound and enduring legacy of the Happenings as well as the state of performance art today.

Read Now

 
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Online Exhibition

American Moon

Jan 18 – Feb 10, 2023

This online presentation features a selection of preparatory drawings Whitman created for the 1960 performance of American Moon.

Explore Now

 
Whitman.jpg

About the Artist

Robert Whitman was a leading figure in New York’s Happenings movement from the late 1950s through the early 1960s. A pioneer of performance art and multimedia installation, he co-founded Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a nonprofit organization dedicated to collaboration between artists and engineers.

Learn More