Monday, March 19, 2012

Whitney Biennial 2012

Let me start by revealing that I never went to New York City until moving to Indiana in 2007. Since then, I've visited as often as possible because it is an easy flight from Indianapolis and an excellent way to see artwork. I didn't have the opportunity to see any of the Whitney Biennial exhibitions until 2010 and this year's was only my second. In the week and half since, I am struggling with my opinion of it. It was my least favorite show viewed this month. In addition, the last Whitney Biennial was equally unimpressive. I don't know what I was expected but here are some works that were memorable (for better or for worse).

Werner Herzog's Hearsay of the Soul (Detail of installation)

“I’m not an artist,” Herzog said. “I’m a soldier." After reading this quote from a week before, Herzog was destined to live up to the first part (enter eye rolling at the second). I love Herzog's films (and will drive a whole state away to see one) but Hearsay of the Soul, an installation revolving around the small prints of Hercules Segers with the music of cellist Ernst Reijseger, came up empty. Herzog wanted to transform "images into music and music into images." Ultimately it was painfully boring.

Elaine Reichek's tapestries held my interest. She embroidered the ancient Greek myth of Ariadne (above) through hand-stitching and digital embroidery.

Sam Lewitt, Fluid Employment, 2012 [Ferromagnetic liquid poured bi-weekly over plastic magnetic elements, fans]

There was a steady crowd flocked around Lewitt's installation. Here's a video clip very much like mine (though less shaky) via youtube. The ferromagnetic liquid pulsated under the fans. It looked like a science experiment gone awry but was neatly contained on tarps protecting the floor.

Leonard Peltier, Horse Nation, 2011

I was floored by this painting by Leonard Peltier because it was, hands down, the least expected artwork in the Biennial (and therefore the best painting). According to the Whitney's website, it is part of Joanna Malinowska's installation: "...she has hung a painting by the imprisoned American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, which she has 'smuggled' into the exhibition as an intervention. As a Polish-born artist, Malinowska is questioning both her inclusion in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial and the absence of Native American art in the Museum’s collection and exhibitions."

It was displayed to the left of Malinowska's
This Project is not Going to Stop the War./Journey to the Beginning of Time.

Luther Price's manipulated 16-mm film was so old school and unanticipated, that it was most likely my favorite work in the museum. Various slide projectors were dispersed throughout the galleries. The technology is so archaic and for the Whitney to recognize this as a viable artwork in 2012, made the show.

From the Whitney website: "He re-edits the footage by hand, effaces the image through scraping, buries the films to rot and gather mold, and adds chaotic visual patterns using colored inks and permanent markers. For soundtracks, he frequently uses only the brutal electromechanical noise generated by sprocket holes running through the projector’s audio system. Each reel he produces is thereby a unique object, often altered to such an extent that it struggles through the projector, as if playing out the end of film itself..."

Sarah Michelson's much discussed dancers were doing nothing during my visit. Stretching here and there but most of the time the floor was empty = not that captivating.

Upon retrospect, I wish I had more time to visit Forrest Bess's installation (via Robert Gober) and Mike Kelley's Mobile Homestead. Too much art, too little time.

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