The inaugural exhibition at the new Whitney Museum of American Art, which opens to the public today, is predicated on the elusiveness of a cohesive and stable national identity in the United States. The enormous show is titled America Is Hard to See after the 1951 Robert Frost poem of the same name — whose original title was “And All We Call America” — in which he ruminates on the expeditions of Christopher Columbus:
America is hard to see.
Less partial witnesses than he
In book on book have testified
They could not see it from outside —
Or inside either for that matter.
But, with more than 600 works by over 400 artists, it’s actually shockingly easy to spot America in America Is Hard to See. There are works featuring US flags, US presidents (including Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, and Barack Obama), a US vice-president (Dick Cheney), US soldiers, and the US Capitol building. There are works that have “America” in their titles, and even one that just consists of the word “America” in neon letters. So don’t believe what Frost and the Whitney curators tell you — here’s proof that America isn’t hard to see at all.
America Is Hard to See continues at the Whitney Museum (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan) through September 27.