Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beyond Perversity, there is only... The Whitney Biennial

Still from Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's "Caligula", 2005, by Francesco Vezzoli

After walking through the last floor of Day for Night, the 2006 Version of the Whitney Biennial, my friend and I looked at each other and said at the same time, "was that it?" Waiting in line outside of the museum, we were hoping that the much hyped Peace Tower by Mark Di Suvero and Rirkrit Tiravanija was not going to be an indication of what was to come. We were wrong. As a protest piece, it fell way short and just looked darn silly. There were interesting elements but on the whole, it looked like a middle school art project assembled on some sort of jungle gym.

There were, however, a number of highlights. I would suggest starting on the 4th floor and working your way down as each floor tried to get a little better. Anne Collier continues to make really smart photographs that in their minimalist sensibility, remind me a little of Ruscha's paintings. Rodney Graham continues to do no wrong with another beautiful installation (see image at the right). Continuing on the film/photo theme, Marilyn Minter's work is possibly the most beautiful work in the show.
(image at left). Her mix of glamour and the reality of life, for me, pretty much summed up the show. It's talked about for two years, we all look forward to seeing it and then we get there pretty much just feel dirty. I also really enjoyed the work of recent Yale MFA Angela Strassheim. (see image below). My friend thought the work fell a little short but I thought they were just creepy enough to capture a wonderful tension. The fact that she is a certified forensic photographer makes them all the more wonderful and make even more sense.

Richard Serra's work looked like he took 10 minutes to make a piece for a benefit auction and then decided to put it in the Biennial (oh wait, that's what he did). You turn the corner and see Billy Sullivan's paintings and swear somebody let Elizabeth Peyton back in for an encore. Thankfully, a painter like Troy Brauntuch was given his own room so the work could really be appreciated. (image at right) Peter Doig's work seemed very half-ass. Actually, that's a theme we kept seeing over and over. We kept saying if they only spent ten more minutes on that piece it could have been really nice. And that sentiment ran from much of the work itself to the way it was installed.

I liked Kori Newkirk's installation of artificial hair and beads but thought it was hung in a much too crowded area where it could not properly be viewed. Thankfully, Adam McEwen offered comic interludes with his fake obituaries that hung in the stairwell (see left). These have pretty much been seen everywhere now but I really enjoy them.

There's much more that could be said, but I'm sure if you've been surfing the blogosphere, you may have heard enough by now. I link some of it below. If you haven't seen it, the title of this piece comes from a line the Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's "Caligula" by Francesco Vezzoli. The entire line goes something like this: "Beyond sensuality, there's sexuality. Beyond Sexuality, there's perversity. And beyond perversity, there is only Caligula." First shown in Venice last year it remains mildly entertaining, but more importantly, this will certainly be the piece people remember most once they leave this years installment, and I think that's quite a shame for the masses that may only go look at contmeporary art once every two years.

More takes on the WB:

I'll add as I come across them...

26 Responses to “Beyond Perversity, there is only... The Whitney Biennial”

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 12:44 PM

One of the worst Whitney Biennials I have ever seen. So I much agree with all said. For all the curators out there I need to share a little story about Martha Colburn. After visiting a video/performance of hers at Stux Gallery, my friend who knows her and I, went to say goodbye. Being polite I said one of those things you say and you don't really mean at openings. And my comment was: "Congratulations, nice show, I'll make sure to spread the word about you". Big mistake. Now is when it gets interesting and all the curators in patrol should listen up. She turns to me and say: "Hell no, no need to, I don't ever want to be in Indiana". After picking up my jaw from the ground (she had already turned around and left), I was left with no choice but walk away as well. So remember her name, Martha Colburn, represented by Stux Gallery in Chelsea. If her work shows up at the any of the "two" fine museums we have here, I will make sure the entire population of Indiana knows how she feels about them.
Lessons to be learned:

- I would like to believe that artists are an opened minded group but often no, not really. She instantly judged me by the place I come from, and assumed I was going to “spread the word” in Indiana, because coming from here, I must only know people here, right?

- Always remember to ask who her drug dealer is so you never visit that junkyard.

q said...
March 17, 2006 at 1:08 PM

That is an all too often shame among artists. too bad for sure

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 1:47 PM

Maybe Martha was tired of having to feel grateful to kindly anonymous curators who selflessly offer to spread the word about her. Artists do get sick of being made to feel like they have no power and just need to wait for curators to make their careers happen. Curatos say "no thanks" constantly. You all think you're the only ones with the right.

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM

Rude is rude, artist, curator or otherwise.

Be nice, you assholes.

Christopher said...
March 17, 2006 at 2:19 PM

Martha Colburn, officially off the list.

I like to think she is the anomaly. The artists we have invited here have been happy to come and leave with a good impression of the city. Some have even returned just for a visit.

It is so much more pleasant when dealing with nice artists and gallerists. As eloquently stated above; be nice, you assholes.

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 3:30 PM

People need to be nice, I totally agree.

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 4:04 PM

You know, I believe in being nice, as well. And if a curator came up to me at a show and said she liked my work and was going to promote me, I would be polite and thank her. So, yes, Martha was rude. However, that is not the situation I am faced with now and so I don't see why niceness is in order. I am faced with a curator who tells us up front that she is being TOTALLY DISENGENUOUS in her compliments and yet still expects some kind of thank you from the artist. Very interesting. And not particularly nice to begin with.

This is quite amazing, really. A real look-in to the curatorial world. Martha is now "off the list," eh? One gossipy comment from a curator friend and she is no longer one of the chosen around Indianapolis. No wonder she doesn't want to come here.

Christopher said...
March 17, 2006 at 4:21 PM

Dear anonymous, you're offically off the list too.

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 4:56 PM


Anonymous said...
March 17, 2006 at 11:58 PM

It's really funny how your assumptions are quite ridiculous. I never said I was a curator. In fact several people in the same flight back to IN were coming from all the art events that took place in NY. So anonymous, I did not tip my "curator buddy" because I'm not a curator. So I admire your in depth glimpse of the "curatorial world" (by the way, what galaxy is that planet is part of?). I don't expect people to treat me nicely. I don’t give a shit about niceness. If you think that was it, you missed the point. I made a complement to her work and she has all the rights to turn her back on me. I'm pointing out her incredibly rude response, not to me only, but to everyone I know here. That's no gossip. That's real prejudice against an entire region. She has the right to dismiss the Midwest, I have the right to bash that.

Anonymous said...
March 18, 2006 at 9:43 AM

You got snubbed and are making a big gossipy deal of it.

Christopher said...
March 18, 2006 at 9:55 AM

David Hasselhoff is back ON the list.

Anonymous said...
March 18, 2006 at 3:12 PM

And you seem to be taking sides, probably not even knowing either one of us. Dumb ass. I'm gonna go look at David now. Bye.

Christopher said...
March 18, 2006 at 4:40 PM

ok you win, Hasselhoff's off again.

Anonymous said...
March 18, 2006 at 10:51 PM

I agree. You got snubbed and are now trying to poop on her career. And you admitted you didn't even like her work anyway and lied about it to her, so what kind of expert witness are you, anyway? How could anyone know if they knew you? You're writing anonymously!

Anonymous said...
March 19, 2006 at 5:09 PM

Gee... you really are taking this more seriously than I am. Maybe you are her. Or maybe your are just an idiot with little to do... Gosh, this blog is such a fucking downer.

final word says said...
March 19, 2006 at 9:16 PM

Oh no you di'nt! one to no

final final word said...
March 19, 2006 at 9:16 PM


Anonymous said...
March 20, 2006 at 4:01 PM

I'll let you have the final word, oh wait... you gonna have to write again to register that you have the final word.

saint robert said...
March 24, 2006 at 1:55 AM

the art of tossing a drink in someone's face has been lost. in your case it should have been revisited with the twist of throwing it at her back.

Anonymous said...
March 24, 2006 at 12:45 PM

I know Saint, I thought of it a few secs too late. I really wanted to spit, but that would be something more like "Flava o' Love". I wanted it to be more like "Days of Our Lives" kinda thing.

Scott said...
March 24, 2006 at 1:10 PM

Damn, I think we have hit a new low for the website with both David Hasselhof and "Flava o'Love" in the same week. I really need to start posting more often. Hehe.

Anonymous said...
March 24, 2006 at 3:48 PM

I think those Marilyn Minter photos are so horrible. They give me the heebie jeebies.

Anonymous said...
March 24, 2006 at 3:50 PM

I mean paintings.

Anonymous said...
April 1, 2006 at 8:32 PM

in searching for my reviews, online, I noticed your blog.
I am so very sorry if I offended anyone, I was having a very bad night and felt completely exhausted. Please excuse me if it came off as some kind of diss, to Indiana. It was not. I was just overwhelmed by too many people and over worked. You such mean things. I am really sorry if I was disrespectful in any way.

Christopher said...
April 3, 2006 at 10:19 AM


Thanks for chiming in. I think we all understand the pressure on an artist before an opening and I hope you didn't take our somewhat comical exchanges on the comment board too seriously.

Best of luck with your work and I hope the show was successful.


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