Whitney Biennial 2012
While I was pleased that an entire floor was given over to performance by the curators of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, there were no performances going on the day I was there and thus, an entire floor was empty during my visit which I found a bit frustrating. At the last Whitney Biennial I enjoyed the emphasis on videos and found the work on view compelling. Sadly, this iteration left me a bit cold.
I did like that the “green room” for performers, created by the artist Wu Tsang to look “like a dressing room in an old blue collar bar turned drag venue,” was also used for a video installation and that there was a proper dressing room with lattice structures that viewers, like true voyeurs, could peek through to see performers changing clothes and getting their hair done.
And I enjoyed Rober Gober’s second curatorial effort at the museum, showing the late Texan self-taught artist, Forrest Bess’s work.
Lutz Bacher hung 85 framed book pages of celestial imagery throughout the entire museum. And I wondered what the point was.
Mauss’s installation confronts the viewer as they walk through white doors after stepping off the elevator. As it attempts to place one in another time and place, it was Mauss’s hope that the work “disrupt the expected experience of a contemporary art exhibition and initiate a spatial, temporal and psychological shift for viewers.”
I found Joanna Malinowska’s work some of the most interesting in the exhibition. From the Canyons to the Stars is a sculpture in the middle of the gallery made from replicas of walrus and mammoth tusks native to the Arctic. Inspired by Duchamp’s readymade, she explores ideas such as “collective consciousness” as well as trying to bridge the gap between two very distinct cultures. This work “enacts a fantasy of Arctic peoples creating a sculpture that unknowingly echoes both everyday Western art and life.” On view closer to the wall is This Project is not Going to Stop the War./Journey to the Beginning of Time which is made up of a tv screening a video of the artist enacting various rituals of indigenous cultures while having visions of Joseph Beuys doing similar things. The last part of her installation is a painting on a wall by Leonard Peltier, an “imprisoned American Indian Movement activist.” She makes a statement by “smuggling in” the work of an artist as “an intervention….questioning both her inclusion in the Whitney Biennial and the absence of Native American art in the Museum’s collection and exhibitions.”
I also really liked the two walls of works by Nicole Eisenman in the Biennial. I know everyone has seen her work before but so what. Exploring a “broader interest in the human condition,” the works are just more interesting than a lot of other work out there these days. Part of that is the result of Eisenman treating each of her subjects differently and respects each figure’s “isolated psychological space.” It is for this reason that some might not even know the works are all by the same artist if they were not part of an installation, hung a certain way with wall text.
Across from Eisenman’s work was an installation by Kate Levant. Made from scavenged remnants of a burned house in Detroit, Levant’s work is hopeful. Though there is poverty and crime in cities, just as the work utilizes crumbling and used objects, they are used to make something “new and unknown.” Another artist, Michael E. Smith, also creates his works out of materials from his urban Detroit surroundings. One work is made of handles covered in oats.
Influenced by the Greek myth of Ariadne in which Theseus, a warrior, found his way out of a Minotaur’s lair by following thread given to him by Ariadne, the artist Elaine Reichek uses both hand as well as digital sewing techniques to craft impressive and quite beautiful works.
Two artists whose work I have written about for many years also have pieces on view, Moyra Davey and Liz Deschenes. Davey’s photographs that have been mailed to female relatives are poignant, beautiful works with personal subject matter that highlights the effects of time. Liz Deschenes has been experimenting with photography in all forms for a few years. Her photograms on view are not made with a camera, but simply by using light-senstive paper. Usually photograms involve placing an object on paper and exposing it to light. Deschenes chooses to focus on the light itself and places nothing on the paper.
The Nomadic Studio Practice Experiment came about because Kasper has been without a studio since 2008. So, galleries invite her to use the gallery or museum space as her studio. So, in the work in the Biennial she places all of the items from her studio and most from her bedroom on view in a gallery. During the entire 3 month period of the show, Kasper is holding studio hours and making work. She thinks of it as a “living sculpture.” This studio time thus becomes as important a part of her work as her final performances and artworks. Honestly, this felt so ridiculous. How many times have I seen an iteration of this before. I felt like I was seeing Tracy Emin’s Bed all over again.