A Late (not-so-great) Biennial


I finally saw the Whitney Biennial last weekend – between traveling madly and pneumonia, who had time? According to the Whitney’s website, The Biennial “characterizes the state of American art today”: some of the artists are repeat inclusions, some don’t live in The U.S., and the show is void of new media work. Hmmm.

The only work on a computer that I noticed used an ibook to display a slide show about a character and the text of a book. The computer was a strange choice and decidedly irrelevant.

There are a few good works. Conceptual artist Walead Beshty‘s shatterproof glass boxes made to fit into Fed Ex boxes and sent are fascinating, especially those that had shattered, their shards precariously hanging. Beshty’s low brow investigative travel photos subjected to Xray damage are smart too.

Phoebe Washburn’s self-sufficient Gatorade golf ball flower factory-slash-ecosystem is weird and compelling. Mike Smith’s photos of himself in Sears studio portraits with his students are characteristically ridiculous. Stephen Prina’s installation of recorded singing, dirty carpet, weird pink light, and home decorating tile is nauseating and addicting. I had the sense that I might be lulled to poisonous sleep à la The Wizard of Oz‘s dreamy poppy field. Mika Rottenberg’s installation Cheese, though seriously (pun intended) less humourous than her previous works in the same circular homespun style such as Tropical Breeze and Mary’s Cherries, is nevertheless visually lush and strange. Due to the farm setting and costuming of multiple young female subjects in long cotton dresses, the work is lent an accidental and tangible creepiness by the recent topical state seizure of 437 children from a Texas polygamist compound.

Otherwise the museum seems largely free of content, messy, forgettable, and almost entirely bland. I’ll take my art with much more humour, thank you.

Notes: I assumed the Whitney’s website would list work titles but I was wrong. It also lacks images of the work on display. Therefore I’ve left out titles I don’t know. I also missed the Armory installations which have completed their exhibition run.

2 Responses to “A Late (not-so-great) Biennial”

  1. henry Says:

    way to kick ass. state of art in america and no media work? shameful

  2. admin Says:

    There is film and video, but nothing interactive, necessarily made with a computer, or using cell phones and other technology now commonly used in contemporary art.

Leave a Reply