Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: The Whitney Biennial

May 2, 2017

(click photos twice to enlarge)

To be honest, the 2017 Whitney Biennial tried my patience. I had the experience of wading through acres of mediocre painting, ugly sculptures, and twee conceptual art to find a handful of works that pleased me aesthetically and intellectually. The show, curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, features a lot of painting on canvas, almost always multiple pieces by the same artist, which gave me an opportunity to get to know several intriguing artists new to me.

I found Tala Madani’s work edgy and amusing, especially Shitty Disco.

I very much liked Celeste Dupuy-Spector’s stuff, and not only because I loved this DJ’s playlist.

Of the three-dimensional work, my favorites were the black-magic melon piece out on one of the roofdecks – a wonderful bit of political dada by a Middle Eastern artist collective known as GCC – and Jon Kessler’s constructions, Exodus and (below) Evolution.

Also fun: Raul DeNieves’s rococo figures, which dance entertainingly between shamanism and kitsch.

On the down side: Samara Golden’s elaborate multi-level piece is undeniably impressive but emotionally opaque.

I found the amount of effort that went into Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s computer word games mystifying to the point of exasperating (and pretentious as the artist’s name); doubly true of Jordan Wolfson’s brutal virtual-reality audience abuser, Real Violence (below).

I walked out most impressed with two artists. Dana Schutz, whose controversial Open Casket has a devastating impact when you actually witness it in person (alongside the artist’s statement).

And Francis Stark, who created a roomful of paintings reproducing a provocative essay about censorship by post-punk essayist Ian F. Svenonious.


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