Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First Impressions, Whitney Biennial 2008

I'm supposed to write about the Whitney Biennial catalog from 2008 for my 1st paper this semester.  I thought it might be edifying for myself, after writing the paper, to look back at my first impressions of the artworks presented, as if I were walking around a show of these works.  So, starting at page 90 of a 290 page book (Not going to give the first 20 or so indulgent black and white images any more space here, and I haven't suffered through any of the essays except the initial introduction, where you'd think that organizing the Whitney Biennial was one of the most exhausting endeavors on the planet, the organizers heros worthy of medals of honor...)-
Awkward adolescent drawings/collages reminiscent of comics.
Poorly exposed photographs of Mexico.
Stills of video installation and floor posters misinterpreting the four humors.
Art world referential installations and performance.
Brightly colored collages implying bodily malfunction.
Paintings of the Bay Area, devoid of people.
Artificial waiting area complete with bleak, monochromatic photographs.
Fancy beaded curtains, another interpretation of the artificial waiting area.
Monochrome canvases made to look like vintage computer characters.
Retro posters and another waiting area.
Retro memorabilia of a performance and offset garbage. 
Video stills of an unattractive white man with "Man Who Fell to Earth" contacts in.
Garbage suspended in resin or made into rectilinear structures in some way.
Unfinished room with found objects, a bunch of drawings and 200 speakers.
Xerox, words and symbols.
Viking wig plus cheese video stills.
Photos of words in landscapes.
Comic book referential text coupled with collage, questionaires and targets. Political.
Photos about boats and fashion.
Stills from 16mm of African Americans, guns and slums.
Video still of camera set up of scene featuring American army in action.
Minimalist photos of taut fabric.
Video stills of torture
Kenneth Anger-esque collage.
2 channel video stills of men in the landscape.
Architecturally referential quilts and grids made from fig newtons.
Photos of buildings taken through gels, or overexposed.
Braids.  Ugh.
Images of utopian projects.
Fake Chocolate Louise Bourgeois with slimfast can, collection of photos of sculptures and chickens on pedestals.
Paintings about photos and paintings.
Paintings of melting grids.
Wooden boxes with ink blots and collage images.
Formalist steal and glass sculptures, some on concrete pedestals.
Grainy film stills of homosexual acts in a white on white bathroom.
Bad paintings of trite subjects.
Shiny sculptures in geometric shapes.
Rectilinear sculpture that seems to exist to ask the question of "how does this hang on the wall?"
Spike Lee.
Grids and gilded deer skull.
Paper mache and photo's of ducks interacting with debris.
Performance documentation featuring the foetal position.
House. Wood panels with Text. White room installation.
Fun with Lumpy buildings.
Sewn black vinyl.
Video stills of artist and architectural model view.
Video stills involving kodachrome nostalgia.
Minimalist photo stills.
Room installation of notes on a fabricated cosmology.
Memorabilia of Neighborhood Public Radio.
Fun with rebar in a grid accompanied with Fun with rebar, palettes, and concrete.
Memorabilia of an experimental music work.
Fun with cellophane, plywood and concrete blocks.
Home Made Kabuki.
Wood scrap, booklet.
Speakers, custom furniture, wall text.
Lantern and black and white photos of no meaning in particular.
Black and white sculpture using balloons, bread, 2x4's, chains, and referencing Noguchi.
Installation of a trashed workshop, vaguely referencing the high-tech.
White tree and reclaimed glassware full of water.
Neon text.
Girls and Guitars.
Dismantled Mantles.  Hah, that's funny. And images of Macrame.
Video stills of Women in white puritan outfits, shot through odd lenses.
Fake wall frames.
Works referencing food production and traditional pottery painting.
Centered photos of mirrors and beer. 
Disturbing mixed cultural photos from a 16mm film. 
Aesthetic use of architectural materials on a grand scale. 
Stills from a very dark looking high def video. 
Purposefully bad photos parodying the college experience.
Ugly sculptures using mud and found objects.
Clever use of xeroxes, projectors and limited palette.
Same limited palette, rolling walls with prints of hexagons and text, performance using Eames chairs.
Grainy videos of human cannonballs.
More monochrome photos in artificial waiting rooms.
Still from videos and installations parodying artist's role in society.
Video relyling on text.
Artificial landscape.
Photos about color.
Artificial museum about the movie Scar Face.

OK, after that exercise, what I've learned:
*The representative photos don't carry the works very well.  Surely, the works must have been more moving in person.
*Conceptual work relies, I realize, heavily on the explanation placards beside it. Which explains why at least a quarter of each layout is devoted to artist statements/ explanations. Without them the works make no lasting impression.
*Video work, specifically video captures of 16mm, were really hot 5 years ago. Only 1 person made the leap to hi-def.
*Nothing looked like fun. I feel like I just sat through a very serious, bleak movie.

If anyone suffered through this post, I apologize.

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