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Biannual Exhibition Showcases State of U.S. Contemporary Art

Tom Thayer, a lecturer in The City College of New York art department, is one of 51 American artists participating in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. The biannual exhibition, which takes place at the Whitney Museum of American Art and runs through May 27, gauges the current state of contemporary art in the United States.

“The idea behind the biennial is to showcase what is happening in contemporary art at this time,” said Mr. Thayer, who teaches undergraduate and graduate studio art classes at CCNY. “It is a high-profile show and it provides good exposure for emerging and established artists.”
“Everyone in the art world knows this is a very big deal, and we are all very proud of Tom for this wonderful accomplishment and honor,” added Professor Ina Saltz, chair of the CCNY art department, in congratulating him.

Elisabeth Sussman, a curator at the Whitney, and Jay Sanders, a freelance curator, curate the Biennial.  They began researching and planning the show in December 2010 by traveling around the country to see the works of different artists. Mr. Thayer noted that one of the curators was familiar with his work from a previous show. “They came to my studio in New Jersey, and I asked what they responded to.”

His exhibit is installed in a room on the museum’s third floor that contains a video monitor that plays animations that activate the exhibit. In addition, there is space for performance art projects he has scheduled for May.  The exhibit combines new works created for the show with existing ones, some of which he repurposed.

“Many of my paintings become repurposed as backgrounds for my films and animations. I may even change them while filming,” he said. “Similarly, something I may have created for a performance art project, a puppet, for example, could wind up as a prop in a film.”

A professional artist for more than 20 years, Mr. Thayer, who lives in Ridgefield, N.J., where he has his studio, said timing might have contributed to his being chosen for the Biennial. “Some things come in and out of style,” he explained. “The way I communicate my ideas is timely now. Ten years ago, the overall art dialog probably had less in common with my practice.”

His invitation to the Biennial has also created opportunities for City College art students. A graduate student is interning with him to assist with his performance projects. Two other students were invited to paint the floor for a dance recital space on the museum’s fourth floor.

The Whitney Museum is located at 945 Madison Ave., New York, at E. 75th Street. Museum hours are: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday. General admission is $18. Full-time students and visitors 19 – 25 and 62 and over: $12. Visitors 18 and under or Whitney members: free. For general information, please call 212-570-3600 or visit

On the Internet

  • Tom Thayer’s website
  • Whitney Biennial


Ellis Simon
p: 212.650.6460