Whitney Biennial 2012

"This Could Be Something If I Let It" are words hung from the wall of Dawn Kasper's installation at the Whitney Biennial. The words could easily stand as the motto for the entire biennial. It could be something... Kasper's room consists of supposedly everything she owns, shipped from her studio in Los Angeles. After reading Peter Schjeldahl's review in The New Yorker that stated Kasper "lives in her installation: a combined bedroom and studio", I thought it would be one of the more interesting things to see. Turns out she only "lives there" during museum hours. Oddly enough, the last time I visited the Whitney, Corin Hewitt was conducting a remarkably similar on-site performance/theatre/live sculpture exhibit, resulting in a weird case of Whitney deja vu.  Kasper's room was indeed fascinating to browse around in, she has quite an amazing collection of stuff. But performance art based upon someone "living" in the Whitney museum from nine to five seems a bit too contrived and scheduled in these days of 24/7 occupations happening in every town square across the country. Ho hum.

Dawn Kasper

Speaking of the year of the protest, Latoya Ruby Frazier has the only remotely political or economics related work in the biennial. Not much sign of discomfort in the Whitney. I overheard a tour guide explain that the lack of any context to the occupy movement in the 2012 biennial was because of the long lead time required to curate the exhibit. Frazier's work is created in retaliation against the recent Levi's Jeans campaign, Go Forth, shot by Ryan McGinley in her home town of Braddock, Pa. The McGinley images were shot to make Braddock look like an old school, hard working, gritty steel town. In reality, the town's mills have been shuttered, along with the only medical center that was providing care for a population suffering from generations of industrial pollutants. Braddock is one of the hardest hit rust belt communities in the United States. Frazier's series is strongly documentary, thereby making it look uncomfortably out of place among the other work in this show.

Latoya Ruby Frazier


There is plenty of simply awful and laughable work throughout this biennial, but also more than enough to satisfy. Clearly, one visit to this expansive survey of contemporary art isn't enough. I didn't have time to see any of the several films, music, dance or theater included this year. Several visits would be needed to grasp the entirety, and my single Sunday afternoon was limited to a visual overview. Nicole Eisenman's grid of abstract portraits draw from a touch of Edvard Munch mixed with a little Yoshitomo Nara, with delightful end results. The work stood out above all others in my view.


Nicole Eisenman

Jutta Koether's "Four Seasons" are strikingly mounted on glass panels, appearing to float in space. The large canvases are delicately colored, graffiti influenced abstracts. Even a child barely old enough to walk was captivated by them, having to be gently pulled away repeatedly.


Jutta Koether

My own sense of child-like curiosity was tweaked by Sam Lewitt's strange floor mounted installation called "Fluid Employment". Resembling a science project run amok, Lewitt's creation consists of creepy dark brown blobs of goo that shake and shimmer under the spell of magnets and electric fans. The result is a Jackson Pollack on steroids. Get down on your hands and knees to check it out from eye level.

Sam Lewitt

I'll be back to the Whitney Biennial for another viewing at the end of the month. There was too much I missed in one visit. The AIPAD preview is coming up on March 28th, so I'll take advantage of another trip to NYC to get a second look at the biennial as well. Should be well worth it.

p.s.  No trip to the Whitney would be complete without a trip to the 5th floor to see Alexander Calder's circus!

The 2012 Whitney Biennial
March 1- May 27


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