Now that I’ve checked some major things off my to-do list–finish first year of school, find an apartment in New York, catch up on some sleep–I’m ready, and excited, to begin a summer full of museum and gallery visits!
I cheated just a little, and made a stop at the Whitney Biennial a few weeks ago while apartment-hunting in New York. I had to make an exception because the Biennial closed on May 27th, and I figured I wouldn’t have the energy to make it there on the day after my last comprehensive exam.
To sum it up, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed. My personal aesthetic is very formal, but I also like to be challenged by interesting concepts; in comparison to my experience at the 2006 Biennial, this exhibition seemed less appealing visually, and less cohesive. Maybe it was the lack of a title or theme this year that made the difference. Overall, there were many works that we would traditionally call craft (such as woven textiles), which is great, but many were commercially produced, taking the manual dexterity out of the equation. There were also many installation pieces that occupied an entire gallery with “stuff” that didn’t always tell an identifiable story. Finally, there were multiple artists that included 2-D framed pieces (prints, drawings, etc.) that seemed to be randomly spread throughout the galleries.
That said, I was still impressed by a handful of artists that showed some inventive work. Ironically, they all happen to be photographers or video artists. I liked LaToya Ruby Frazer for her imagery and composition, Liz Deschenes for her approach to the photographic materials, and Moyra Davey for her concepts of time and communication.
Werner Herzog‘s Hearsay of the Soul was probably my favorite piece, combining 17th-century prints by Hercules Segers, music by Ernst Reijseger, and video of musicians in a five-screen projection. I have to be honest and say that I mostly sat down in the gallery because I was tired. The longer that I sat there, however, the more I enjoyed the piece because of the way that it stimulated my senses: the video contained graphic art along with human movement, constantly changing and surrounded by beautiful music.
Even with mixed reviews, I’m still glad I attended the exhibition, and I look forward to seeing how the careers of these artists transform over the coming few years.