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Whitney Biennial 2006

I wondered whether or not to dress warmly, long underwear, for the last cold blast of winter in New York, as I ventured to see the 2006 Whitney Biennial, its 73rd. In hindsight I should have. The cold air will be gone soon enough as will this inception of the biennial called Day for Night, which takes it title from the 1973 François Truffaut film. According to the press release it denotes a technique of shooting night scenes artificially during the day, using a special filter. Curated by Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne, this is the first Whitney Biennial to have a title. You learn many tidbits of information at a press briefing, and I like trivia. Did you know that Miles Davis painted like Basquiat? or vice versa.

As you enter the museum, on your left, peeking up from the lower level court yard is the 50’ Peace Tower, a recreation of Mark di Suvero and Rirkrit’s tower that stood at Sunset and Cienega Boulevards in Los Angeles in 1966, to protest the Vietnam War. As with most protests of the current war, they’re sequestered off to the sidelines, in this case sunken. It’s worth a look though, over 200 artists have taken part in this version of the tower, each submitting 2’ x 2’ panels, with many of the original members as could be found. Famed artist/blogger Joy Garnett is included.

Once inside there’s so much to take in, it may take several visits to truly appreciate many of the subtleties of this show, as in Troy Brauntuch’s black and white paintings that only reveal themselves after careful observation. There are several video installations to settle in with, like Peter Huyghe’s A Journey That Wasn’t, based on the artist’s trip to Antarctica. I got to meet a very happy and proud Zoe Strauss (pictured) in her very own 10’ x 10’, or so, room of her projected images. Don’t ever lose sight of how important this exhibit is for an artist, to have a respectful environment to show your work; it doesn't happen very often. In this case thousands of visitors will line up around the block for the next few months to see the work. Can it get any better?

"Paintings?" you ask. There are some: Peter Doig has two Gauguinish works, and JP Munro’s image of a deer with a crucifixion as a center antler stayed in my mind. In addition to a video, a painting by Billy Sullivan. I enjoyed seeing Marilyn Minter’s two paintings, not only because she’s a good painter, but also because she’s 57 years old and just now getting into a biennial. I’m inspired.

As for sculpture, Lisa Lapinski’s Night Stand, a rambling, Rube Goldbergian (Roberta’s thought) piece, constructed of walnut. Urs Fischer has a monstrous wall smashing piece, with rotating dripping candles, which takes up most of the third floor. A combination of drawings and sculpture, that I liked a lot, is the work of The Otabenga Jones and Associates collective and Robert Pruitt. The group was was founded in 2002 to “highlight the errors in the representation of African art.” The group’s namesake is Ota Benga, an African Pygmy brought to the U.S. in 1906 as an exhibit in the Bronx Zoo.

Also of note, Mark Bradford's large collages on canvas, here and here, and Monica Majoli's luscious, large watercolors, also Sturtevant's homage to Duchamp is beautifully done.

I’ll have more to say about the exhibit, as I mull it over, but I wanted to get my initial thoughts out while fresh. There was a lot to absorb in the context of one show. You may want to purchase the 800-page catalog ($50) complete with fold-out posters. Libby and Roberta, of art blog fame got one: they’re nice, they’ll share. They have a post up already!

More pictures of the day here.

More images of the Whitney Biennial from James Wagner.


Mark Barry said...

I'm coming down for the ionarts Spring Cotillion and crab feast.Dada and Cezanne are on my list also.

Mark Barry said...

I didn't feel that, although some did. There is bound to be despair when making art these days, unless your head is in the ground; that's valid too! I also saw much beauty. Look at the Bradford to the right, it was wonderful.

rb said...

wonderful post, mark, and i enjoy your flickrs

Mark Barry said...

Thanks rb, I love the new shades!

Anonymous said...

2006 Biennial: bland and pathetic half measures, self indulgence and much visually weak work that barely stands up even when propped up by an arcade of conceptual pillars. Blech!! (A few exceptions: Daniel Johnston's zany drawings, Paul Chan's graceful projection, the Caligula trailer, but much crap as usual.)