Where We Are

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.

700—Introduction to Where We Are


Installation view of Where We Are at the Whitney Museum.

David Breslin: My name is David Breslin. I’m the DeMartini Family Curator and the director of the collection here at the Whitney Museum of American Art. I’m the curator of Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection 1900-1960

The exhibition looks at artworks in the Whitney's collection made between 1900 and 1960. The idea behind the exhibition was to really show themes or groups of works that American artists have traditionally, even habitually returned to. The idea was to look, during a particularly divisive current American history, at these groups of works to show how American artists have looked at these ideas in very different ways and to put forth the idea that we can have difference without division or divisiveness. 

The exhibition is broken into five groups or themes: Family and Community, the Home, Labor, the Nation, and the Spiritual. 

The title of the exhibition, Where We Are, comes from W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939. It’s a poem that Auden wrote shortly after he emigrated to the United States from the United Kingdom and September 1, 1939 is the day that Germany invades Poland, really setting in motion World War II. And in the poem, Auden begins to play out how the shadow of this global emergency will play itself out in every corner of everyday life, so the Family, the Home, the Nation—all the themes that this exhibition takes under consideration. The exhibition has been framed also with lines from the same poem, so in addition to Where We Are coming from the poem, each section or theme is also titled after a line from the poem.

Installation view of Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 28, 2017–). From left to right, top to bottom: Jacob Lawrence, War Series: The Letter, 1946; Jacob Lawrence, War Series: Docking – Cigarette, Joe?, 1947; Jacob Lawrence, War Series: On Leave, 1947; John Steuart Curry, Baptism in Kansas, 1928; Thomas Hart Benton, Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire), 1948; Jacob Lawrence, War Series: Beachhead, 1947; Jacob Lawrence, War Series: Purple Hearts, 1947; Jacob Lawrence, War Series: How Long?, 1947. Photograph by Ron Amstutz