Gregg Bordowitz named Director of Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program

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Gregg Bordowitz named Director of Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program
Bordowitz—an alumnus and long-time visiting faculty member of the Independent Study Program (ISP)—will begin his tenure on February 1. Photograph by Justin Bettman.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Whitney Museum of American Art has appointed Gregg Bordowitz, highly recognized artist, writer, and teacher, as director of its celebrated Independent Study Program (ISP).

Bordowitz—a committed teacher who, among many other accomplishments, has spent years as a visiting faculty member with the ISP—will begin his tenure as director on February 1. For the last 25 years, Bordowitz has also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, acting first as a professor and then chair of the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department. Since 2013, Bordowitz has served as the founding director of the school’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program.

Bordowitz, an ISP alumnus from the 1985/86 class, succeeds founding ISP director Ron Clark, who is retiring after a 54-year tenure. Clark’s leadership and vision over five decades has made the ISP one of the most respected and coveted programs in the world, supporting generations of artists, curators, and critics.

“It is so important to have an artist lead the ISP, which has long focused its program on next-generation creators,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum. “Gregg is an ideal successor to help launch the ISP into an exciting new chapter, given his deep knowledge of critical theory, art history, and curatorial work. Moreover, he has an established history with the program, as both a participant and educator.”

A New York City native, Bordowitz is a renowned filmmaker, writer, and activist whose work has been exhibited at the Whitney, The New Museum, Artist Space, MoMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and TATE Modern, among others. His work is the subject of a traveling retrospective spanning 30 years of activity—Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well—first organized by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, in 2018.

In the 1980s, Bordowitz focused his creative practice on responding to the AIDS crisis. He organized and documented a number of protests against government inaction and advocated for health education and harm reduction as a member of the groundbreaking AIDS activist group ACT UP. He also served as a founding member of the 1980s video/film collectives Testing the Limits and Diva TV.

“My engagement with the ISP, as a participant and then faculty for over 30 years, shapes my ongoing education as an artist and a teacher. Study is a way of life,” Bordowitz said. “Teaching is the art of learning. The teacher teaches learning, as learning teaches the students; as learning teaches the teacher to teach. This is an ongoing process of continually renewing amazement.”

The ISP has been a core component of the Whitney’s role as a champion of American contemporary art and artists since 1968. The program has nurtured more than two generations of artists, curators, art historians, and critics, providing participants with the instruction, space, and support needed to pursue their artistic endeavors.

In addition to Bordowitz, alumni of the program include artists Jennifer Allora, Tony Cokes, Danielle Dean, Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Renée Green, Jenny Holzer, Emily Jacir, Glenn Ligon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Julian Schnabel; critics and art historians Huey Copeland, Miwon Kwon, Pamela M. Lee, and Roberta Smith; and curators Carlos Basualdo, Naomi Beckwith, and Sheena Wagstaff.

Cokes and Beckwith were part of the advisory committee in charge of the search for the new director, along with the ISP faculty member and art historian Benjamin Buchloh, and Whitney Trustee Joanne Cassullo.

Bordowitz will take the reins at an exciting and historic period for the program. In 2023, the ISP is expected to move into its first permanent home at artist Roy Lichtenstein’s renovated and expanded former studio space, blocks from the Whitney at 741/745 Washington Street. The project, made possible through an extraordinary act of generosity by Dorothy Lichtenstein, the president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, will preserve the legacy of a remarkable, historic space in the heart of Greenwich Village while adapting it as a hub of artistic creation, research, programming, and discussion for participants now and in the future.

“In its new home, the ISP will be a house of study anchored in a curriculum generated by artists—as it was first conceived,” said Bordowitz. “Our primary aspiration will be to continually reinvigorate the ISP’s ongoing investigation into how art challenges what appears to us as ‘ordinary.’”

“Gregg Bordowitz and I are both alumni of the Whitney’s ISP and it played a seminal role in our artistic trajectories,” said artist and ISP alumnus Glenn Ligon. “Gregg agreeing to be the program’s new director is an indication of its continuing importance and relevance and an opportunity for him to build upon the amazing legacy that the current director Ron Clark has left.”

“I am glad to hear that Gregg Bordowitz is the new director of the ISP,” said artist and ISP faculty member Yvonne Rainer. “As a former ISP student and long-time visiting artist and consultant there, he is more than well equipped for the job. And with his Art Institute teaching experience, brilliance, and good nature, I have no doubt that Bordowitz will do the program proud."

“Gregg is an exceptional educator and artist whose remarkable work lives at the intersection of art and activism,” said T. Camille Martin-Thomsen, Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs at SAIC. “In addition to his two decades of teaching, for the last ten years, he served as the inaugural director of SAIC’s seminal Low-Res MFA program, shaping the program and setting it up for long-term success. We are deeply grateful for his creativity, passion, and dedication to our students.”

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