Whitney's New Public Art Installation Is Open To Interpretation

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • June 07, 2016

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Torbjørn Rødland (b. 1970), Blue Portrait (Nokia N82), 2009–16. Collection of the artist; Courtesy of Eva Presenhuber, STANDARD (OSLO), David Kordansky and Greenspon

On Tuesday, the Whitney Museum of American Art unveiled the latest work in a series of public art installations by key American artists on the facade of 95 Horatio Street, across from the Museum’s building and the southern entrance to the High Line. Blue Portrait (Nokia N82), 2009–16, by photographer Torbjørn Rødland, is the fourth work to be featured as part of the series, which was initiated by the Whitney in partnership with TF Cornerstone and High Line Art. Past installations have showcased works by Alex Katz (2014); Michele Abeles (2015); and Njideka Akunyili Crosby (2015–2016).

In Blue Portrait (Nokia N82), the Los Angeles–based photographer Torbjørn Rødland uses his camera to create a mysterious, even perplexing combination of images, juxtaposing—among other things—a Nokia mobile phone and a portrait of Anne Frank. While often using images and objects from history and politics, Rødland insists on the openness of meaning in the photographic image. His approach is part intuitive and part intellectual, inviting personal and individual interpretations of material resonating with broader cultural meanings.

Rødland’s carefully composed photographs convert seemingly everyday scenes into something more heightened than their status in ordinary life. His meticulous attention to color, texture, and the quality of light elevates otherwise mundane subjects into beautiful and seductive images. Yet his juxtaposition of disparate objects and heraldic lighting makes his scenes not only alluring, but also unsettling and uncanny. Rødland’s photographs are conceptually based; he chooses objects and settings for their cultural connotations and psychological potential, charging each image with seemingly incompatible references and unexpected emotional impact.

The installation is organized by Whitney assistant curator Elisabeth Sherman.

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