Whitney Biennial

As I member of the Whitney, I was given the opportunity to see the Biennial yesterday morning. I admit, I had absolutely no expectations based on the other Biennials which I had mixed feelings about. The presentations were almost trying to be in your face instead of embracing the art.

The place was absolutely packed yesterday with the press. I actually overhead someone say “everybody hates this but everybody goes.”.

This Biennial was really good. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to slowly stroll from the 4th floor to the basement. I really enjoyed the presentation. I am absolutely going back with kids in tow. I thought the curator did a great job of representing interesting emerging and solid contemporary artists that really represent art today. It was eclectic but made sense.

I started on the top floor and in the first room saw 3 paintings from a Seattle based artist, Cameron Martin. I had actually seen his paintings at the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery a few years back. Had thought about purchasing a piece and then in the end didn’t. Huge mistake. I remembered how much I loved his work seeing it again yesterday. The on that floor was Fred Tomaselli whose work I had also seen in the past. The decoupage of insects, flowers and butterflies painted over with color are psychedelic. Really great.

There was a small room dedicated only to the works of Mel Bochner. Bright wordings that reminded me of Richard Prince. I liked them. Very pop culture. Around the corner from that was a room that was completely installed with 60’s themes of cigarettes and whiskey. The music playing in the background sounded like the White Stripes asking for cigarettes and whiskey. My kids will love this room. It was really fun and clever.

I roamed down to other floors. The music time line by Dave Muller, which takes up an entire wall is great. Again, clever and certainly representative of art over the past but in the medium of music combined with painting. Really liked that.

I walked around one corner and saw a room that had structures that almost looked like pieces of cars layered over a wooden platform. I didn’t really get it but was surprised that the artist was Richard Prince. I am a fan of Richard Prince. I liked his earlier cowboys pieces and then loved his funny word paintings but am incredibly impressed at this presentation because it is so different from his past works.

One wall was of photos called “where we come from” by Emily Jaier. These were really awesome. She tells a story. Each picture has a story of people asking her to do something when they get to a location that they themselves can not visit. It is mostly of Israelis and Palestineans who live anywhere from New York to Canada to areas in the Middle East. They can not get back to their homes or visit their relatives because of the crisis and prejudices on both sides in the region. Makes you see each side’s perspective. I thought these were smart and thought provoking.

One piece by Jim Hodges was beautiful. He had taken a picture of a beautiful large tree. He had then taken cutouts of the photo and bent them back to look like birds or leaves flying in the breeze.

The photographs by Catherine Opie of the surferers making their way out to the waves in the early morning were also impressive. The fog is so rolled in on some pictures you can barely make out the surferers in the photo but they are there. Great lighting.

The video presentations were all different but I did spend time really listening and watching each of them. There is one about a kid talking about his life vs. his parents and what he has learned from them. Another was of 4 video installations in one room that were linked as these kids sung about the United Nations and peace. Another was of the Russian Tsars that were killed and found in the 90’s at a grave site. Interesting.

All and all, if you were completely unaware of any pop culture that was happening in our times over the past 40 years, you would get a good picture from this collection of artists that was put together by the Whitney. Each piece in some way represents how our culture has effected what artists think about and in turn create.

High fives for the Biennial. Really looking forward to going back up there with the kids.