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26.3.04

New York in a Day

Mark Barry, Access NY, watercolor, 2004The line to get into the Whitney Biennial stretched out the door and around the block on my visit this past Wednesday. Luckily, I was there around 10:30 and got in after only a short wait. If you buy a $75 membership, you'll be whisked to the front of the line. Once inside, it's a happening. There's painting, sound, installation, and more lines to view videos. I've got to admit up front something I'm not proud of, and that is my lack of patience for video, be it this exhibit or in a gallery. I give it a few minutes, and if it doesn't click, I'm gone. What attracts me most is painting.

This biennial is a big vibrant funhouse on four floors. I started on the second floor and made my way up to the fourth, at a fairly quick pace, weaving and bopping around the crowd, and then retraced my steps on the way back down. Many of the artists I was already familiar with from the Chelsea galleries. As a whole I really enjoyed this biennial. As always, it's heavy on New York. That's expected, but there's a lot of good art being made outside of New York, too. There, I said it.

Some other interesting reviews of the Whitney Biennial:

• Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker (March 22 issue)
• Tyler Green's Five Favorites at Modern Art Notes (March 24)
• Nathalie's Thoughts on the Whitney at Cup of Chicha (March 21)
Jerry Saltz (March 15) and Ed Halter (March 16) at the Village Voice
Blake Gopnik in the Washington Post (March 14)


What remained in my mind a day later are the same works already mentioned by other writers. Elizabeth Peyton's small painting gems, for one. Probably because of their small, quiet stature, they stand out in this boisterous show. In the same room are several David Hockney portraits, interiors, and landscapes in watercolor. (Hockney is also showing new drawings up the street at Richard Gray Gallery: Self Portrait In The Bathroom is great.) I spent most of my time in this room.

Some other work I liked were the painting/drawings on big canvases by Julie Mehretu, Lecia Dole-Recio's large abstract mixed media works on paper (a conservation challenge in the making), the imaginary landscapes of Robin O'Neil (I thought of Pieter Brueghel the Younger), and Erick Swenson's spooky albino deer installation. It's a feast for the senses: check out the Whitney artist list for images.

Also uptown, in addition to Hockney at Richard Gray, Helen Frankenthaler is showing some very nice large woodcuts at Salander-O'Reilly Galleries. Two pieces also exhibit the original woodblocks.

On 57th Street, Alexandre Gallery is showing four small (14 by 16 inches) landscapes by Lois Dodd, which were probably the most memorable paintings of the day. Snow, Wood, Flatbrookville, 1976 is one. Mary Ryan Gallery has new paintings by Michael Mazur, and Michael Rosenfeld has the largest Fairfield Porter painting I've ever seen in his office. Barbara Mathes Gallery has a beautiful exhibit of costumes and textiles from 10th- to 13th-century China. OK, I'm inspired: back to painting.

Mark Barry (www.markbarryportfolio.com) is an artist working in Baltimore.

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