More-Subdued Biennial Returns To The Whitney
With an explosion of art fairs, can the Whitney Biennial live up to the hype as the definitive statement on American art? NY1’s Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
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The much-hyped Whitney Biennial always has a theme. This year, the theme is the same as the year, 2010.
“We didn't go in having a theme in mind. We didn't want to be limited by that sort of structure,” says co-curator Gary Carrion-Murayar. “The themes that are in the show emerged through the process of visiting artists in New York and across the country, so I think there are sort of distinct themes that I think the viewer will pick up on when you're going through and I think each floor has a different mood.”
There are 55 artists being represented in the biennial survey of American art. It’s the fewest number of artists in the exhibit’s history. And museum officials say the entire show is more subdued than in years past.
“I think the 2010 Biennial is a very surprising show because each corner that you see in the exhibition reveals something that you might not expect and the change of tone from space to space to gallery to gallery,” explains Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg. “It goes from quiet to very dramatic and then back to quiet again. Other biennials have often been from one bang right after the other. This one has an even flow that's just beautiful; it's very poetic.”
The biennial showcases works in painting, sculpture, photography, video installations, and performance art.
Theaster Gates is taking over the courtyard and creating a shoe shine installation inspired by his hometown and Eastern monks.
“In the neighborhood that I grew up in, in Chicago, there was a very important shoe shine stand called Shine King where people hung out and got their shoes shined,” says Gates. “You could see preachers there and you could see drug dealers there; you could see lots of different kinds of people. It was kind of like where information got exchanged definitely, but not in anyone's cultural radar. I wanted to talk about Shine King, kind of in my imagined the relationship with the East. So how might a sacred space, built upon service, shoe shining, how might that look and what would that sound like?”
This biennial is the first to have more women than men. One of those women represented is photographer Nina Berman.
“I'm showing here at the Whitney 18 photographs from a project I did on a severely-wounded Marine named Tyler Seigal, who served in Iraq,” says the New Yorker. “The pictures are from 2006 and 2008 and it's a very intimate, forensic look at his reintegration back into civilian life and family life.”
There is also a full schedule of live music, art classes, and family events. Those wondering if the biennial can live up to the hype can check it out until May 30th. For more information, go to whitney.org.