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Whitney 2010!

2010, Whitney BiennialThe Whitney Museum of American Art's national survey of American art began in 1935 as a way to take the pulse of contemporary art at the time, and again this year my work was not selected! I know, I'm shocked too. For this, the 75th year, curators Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari have selected 55 artists on the basis of studio visits made around the country. A sign of modest times maybe: it's down from 81 in 2008 and 100 in 2006.

The art press was out in force this past Tuesday for the press preview, and there were more blogging/tweeting heads than ever before. It's a wave: I’m getting most of my art world updates on Facebook and Twitter. A full in-depth blog post is valuable still, but Facebook spreads and constant Twitter updates have become essential reads.

This year each artist was allowed one work or series, which also gives this biennial a smaller feel, not so hectic and scattered as in past years. I like that. Something else I like, the curators have dedicated floors by genera: for instance most of the video installation is on the third floor, which gives each artist a spacious cube of their own. It's a much more fluid viewing experience: admittedly not usually having the patience to linger with videos, this year I did.

Kate Gilmore manically destroys a closet of sheet-rock, smashing and tearing her way to the top, exposing the viewer to the beauty beneath the claustrophobia. I would be wary of renting an apartment to her. Ari Marcopolous's Detroit proves how great music begins: jammin' in the bedroom, of course. Josephine Meckseper plays a dour sound track to her Mall of America video: the shots are rich and slick, but it's kind of like Vegas -- what happens at the mall stays at the mall. It's not that big of a deal anymore, and the MoA will eventually implode of its own accord.

The guard had to show me how to enter the Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher collaboration in a box, titled Better Dimension. Lucky for me: the loop of deep kaleidoscopic reds projected in the dark space is fabulous. I think the guard in Marianne Vitale's room, listening to her video Patron loop over and over will need a very strong drink after each shift -- jus' sayin'.

Stepping off the elevator on each floor visitors are greeted by one grand piece. On 3, Pae White's curling smoke, which press photos led me to believe would be a video, is actually soft woven cotton. Everyone wants to touch it. Piotr Uklanski's large weaving of hemp, macrame, jute, and pigment on the 4th is impressive. It reminded me of El Anatsui's work, up now at Jack Shainman, and James Casebere's blown-up photo of a toy - like suburban houses set you up for a wary playfulness on the 2nd floor.

War is never far from our psyche these days. I was first introduced to Nina Berman's work through her striking wedding photo of former Marine Sargent Ty Ziegel at Jen Bekman Gallery. Ziegel was severely disfigured by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Berman is exhibiting a series of 17 photos following Ty and his fiancée Renee as they plan their wedding -- wrenching, but full of love and beauty.

Photo-journalist Stephanie Sinclair on the other hand slams us with her series Self-Immolation in Afghanistan: A Cry For Help. Raw images of women's bodies scarred and burned, it's unexpected and very emotional. As my co-blogger Brent Burket mentioned, it's a relief to have Lesley Vances's wonderful paintings in the next room to ease us back from the edge. Or for that matter Maureen Gallace's simple, lush landscapes: her work always reminds me of Lois Dodd's, who by the way may also have been a good choice for this spot.

On whole this is a very good Biennial. For every artist included my mind wanders to dozens of other artists who could have been: in some cases, as with the room full of Charles Ray's floral watercolors, one thinks why at all?

Then the Bruce High Quality Foundation crashes the party by driving in a 60s-era white ambulance and schools us with their We Like America and America Likes Us video of our recent past projected on the windshield.

Like the one you're with. The Biennial is up through May 30th: for more images go to my Flickr site.

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