Tyler Green looks at the coming absorption of the Cocoran's collection into the NGA's
and what it could mean.
The NYT's discussed this week's 2014 Whitney Biennial
and its wrong to give the article much focus beyond being a brochure guide. Mostly, the focus on; witty craft, works on paper, nostalgia, architecture and female painters is a restatement of the previous decade and a half (which is accurate and on trend though not enough women are in this show). Still, the addition of "Looks That Can Decieve" is somewhat interesting but also very familiar if you've looked at contemporary art since say 1999. Several of my friends are in it and one of the curators is an old grad school chum so I've got a vested take in this... but overall I see it as an index style show. There are lots of other regional surveys of American art (Made in LA, State of the Art
etc)... some more comprehensive (no Pacific Northwest artists despite the fact we are hot, probably because there is a big Midwest presence and Midwesterners often move Northwest). Some, like TAM's Northwest Biennial
(yes I was in the last one but I did a lot to discourage them from inviting me) or the California-Pacific Triennial
are more narrow than this but it is the New York style marketing blood sport of who will stand out that keeps people focused on the Whitney.
No other show on the planet, besides perhaps the Turner Prize (which isn't a big survey but a 5 person shootout) has that kind of see what sticks to the wall thing to it. The curator's jobs are mostly impossible as they try to give the proceedings intellectual integrity... and it looks like this will have it. Though, by bringing in 3 outside curators the Whitney seems to be insulating themselves... using in house staff = Statement. Choosing 3 outsiders = lets do an index and learn while we gear up for the new building. The focus on the Midwest is a nice turn about for the flyover states that often get ignored... the fact that Obama became President through Chicago's political machine probably will resonate here somehow, though obliquely. What I can tell is that the press is going to mostly look at genres of art on display rather than ask big questions. For example, why David Foster Wallace? (the cult of DFW would be a cool show by itself) Ok fellow critics, prove me wrong? I'll wait till I see the show myself, but any time a big show like this doesn't give us something original (it is out there) it is a wasted opportunity and it is usually the only time everyone tunes into the critics. Maybe this Whitney is the one nobody saw coming? Generally, people feel disappointed and prepare for as much... though 2004, 2008 and 2010 they seemed to think were palatable (is that the same as good, or is that kind of appeal ultimately bad and a kind of incestious self fulfilling prophecy?). 2002 was by far the most contentious and had the most influence... more than WhiBi any in the past 30 years. What these biennials need to do to be successful is to simultaneously inject fresh new talent into the discussion while providing a deeper thread that distinguishes them from yet another art fair (2002 did that). Mostly, I'm over survey shows and wait for one that raises the bar rather than uses itself to ingratiate an institution to a wider (yet narrow) art world. It is that compression without those moments of "confusion and discovery" that bores people when they get bored with group shows. Hopefully that will be avoided, the contemporary art status quo is due for a big shakeup but the last time the Whitney dd that curator Larry Rinder was crucified (not exactly a habit worth cultivating NYC). Maybe the problem was it was seen as bad that Larry got crucified?
Hilariously the Whitney Houston Biennial
will take place for one night only... what isn't hilarious is the fact that an all women protest like this had to happen because the Whitney's show is only 32% woman. Often the protests to the official show have been more influential than the official biennial. The Ten
and The Irascibles
alone prove the point.