The Glass House Blog

Happy Birthday, David Whitney!

David Whitney

On this day in 1939 David Whitney (1939-2005) was born in Worcester, MA.

David Grainger Whitney (1939-2005) was an accomplished curator and editor, an avid art collector and gardener, a loyal friend to many artists, an art adviser to New York’s powerful elite, and an advocate of contemporary art.  In contrast to his outspoken partner of forty-five years, Philip Johnson, Whitney was an éminence grise, an art world insider who preferred to maintain his privacy.  Whitney’s circle of friends included Modern masters such as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Frank Gehry, Frank Stella, Ken Price, among others.  Whitney described the development of these relationships simply as “I became close to these people who are now all gods.  But they weren’t then.”  However, from a historical perspective, this attests to his keen eye for emerging talent, as well as his deep understanding of and appreciation for the creative mind and artistic expression.

Read more of the first-ever David Whitney biography on our website at

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Heizer Window at Grainger

Philip Johnson loved to call many of the 14 structures on his Glass House property “events on the landscape”. This quote certainly refers to Johnson’s Lincoln Kirstein Tower and the Ghost House, but what about the vernacular buildings on the property?  Johnson and his life-long partner, David Whitney, purchased three buildings, dating from the 18th to the early 20th centuries and, rather than tear them down, they remodeled or edited them to suit their aesthetic needs. Are these also “events on the landscape”?

Michael Heizer window at Grainger

One such building called Grainger, after David Whitney’s middle name, was purchased by Whitney in 1990 and is across the street from his own home on the GH property, Calluna Farms. This simple 1735 cottage housed Whitney’s collection of pottery and crafts, and was used as a warm-weather retreat, as well as a movie theater.  Painted a custom-color black by Donald Kauffman with a sensuous peony garden planted by Whitney, Grainger also features a playful, graffiti-style-etched window from 1993 by Michael Heizer. These whimsical alterations by Whitney to the antique building certainly made it an “event on the landscape”.

 Before collaborating on the Grainger window, Whitney and Heizer worked together in 1985 when David Whitney curated a show of Heizer’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, entitled Michael Heizer: Dragged Mass Geometric.  The exhibit reconstructed as installation art an earth piece Heizer conducted at the Detroit Institute of Art in 1971.  On the north lawn of the Institute, a thirty-ton boulder of granite was dragged back and forth across the ground, displacing 300 tons of earth. To document his earthwork Heizer created several drawings for the show at the Whitney and gave one to David Whitney as a gift. This colorful and expressive silkscreen, entitled Dragged Mass (Iso/Planar/Section,) 1983 (silkscreen, gouache, oil pastel and pencil on paper) is on view in the Painting Gallery at the Glass House property.

 Could this drawing by Heizer in the Glass House collection have influenced his window for Grainger?  The window etching is composed of graffiti-like abstract lines, swirls, notations and other marks very similar to those in the Dragged Mass drawing, suggestive of a pictographic script.  With this wonderful reference to Heizer’s earthwork, which he often called sculpture, Grainger and it’s etched window takes on a double meaning as an event on the landscape.

 Born in Berkeley, California in 1944, Heizer began to create earthworks on a monumental scale in the desert of Nevada as early as 1966.  He spent time in New York City as a young artist before heading back out west where his intention was to bring art out of the museums. Today he continues to work and live in Nevada.

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