Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Whitney Biennial

It’s ridiculous to review a show like the Whitney Biennial. You try to fabricate in reverse a curatorial vision that encompasses every detail and end up with a laundry list. Critics never say good things about the Biennial; whatever the Biennial is meant to be, they never like it.

In my opinion, here’s what it comes down to: a good 80% of the art on view anywhere, at any time, is crap. I’ve been to three Biennials now, and it's no exception. Just walk past the crap and spend time with the good stuff.

And as always, there is good stuff. This time many good, well-established artists were given whole rooms to work with. Here’s what I liked, in the order I saw the pieces, moving from the fourth floor down to the second. You could print this out and take it as your guide! Continued below.

Kori Newkirk’s “Glint,” a hanging rectangle of hair extensions and beads.


Robert Gober’s room of photos, as understated and moving as all of his work, offering beautiful pieces of garbage in place of a gay-bashed young man.


Kenneth Anger’s room of stills from his movies, weird tributes to him from various artist-fans, and a trippy Mickey Mouse video.


Francesco Vezzoli’s fake preview for a remake of Caligula, with an all-star Hollywood cast that includes Courtney Love as Caligula.


A video by Tony Oursler and others, “Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, all over again,” featuring marionettes in 1970s costumes having orgies and doing hallucinogens.


Dawolu Jabari Anderson’s “Frederick Douglass Self-Defense Manual” series, prints of black men in martial-arts poses such as “Hand Seeks Cotton.”


Otabenga Jones & Associates, “Exploring the Outer Reaches of the Garden of Pro-Black Sanctuary”—you peek through a brick wall to see a spaceship-type thing landing in an idyllic pastoral landscape. Image not available.

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  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Oh, I didn't like half the pieces you just described.

    I enjoyed Caligula, but not any more than I enjoyed "Brokeback to the Future" or "Hung Up on Grey Gardens." I respect Vezzoli for scamming the artworld to pay him for something that thousands of video spoofers do for free (and often more cleverly), though.

    And it really put the lie to my argument that Courtney Love finally looks normal now that she's chubby (well, when she was chubby -- she has since gone back to her anorexic weight). Even chubby, she looks like Amanda Lepore when her face moves. You can actually see the contours of the silicone implants in her cheeks. Really, really sad, actually.

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Or saline pouches or bits of Bosnian baby tailbone or whatever the hell she had stuffed under her skin to look like "cheekbones."

  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I think you're confusing "anorexic" with "heroin addict."

    The Vezzoli was the weakest of the pieces I mentioned. I wasn't sure I should include it, but it made me chuckle.

    What else didn't you like?

  • At 4:12 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    I liked the Gober and maybe the Anderson, but not the others. Well, I mean, I love Kenneth Anger's work, but that was hardly a piece, was it? It was just some shots from his old movies and such.

    I really liked the S&M watercolors, but I was told by my art dealer friend that they're very derivative of some other painter. Since I didn't know the other painter, I thought they were both gorgeous and funny (though I could have done without the pencil drawing, only noticeable upon close inspection). My friend thought the painting with the erect penis resting on the, um, sling or whatever was "absolutely disgusting."

    I also sort of liked the paintings by Peter Doig. And I cackled when I saw the Jessica Craig-Martin-ey photograph of a socialite's calloused heel. I would love that for my apartment if I had an apartment.

    Billy Sullivan's Nan Goldin-ey slide show totally got me, though that was probably because of my proximity to its subject.

    There was so much to hate, too. Most prominently, the nepotism. Dan Colen is only included because his family includes so many prominent art collectors. And I hate to speak ill of the dead, but did the paintings by Tom Verlaine's wife get there for their own merits? Ditto for the crappy Williamsburg band Japanther and for Daniel Johnston's doodles (I love his music, might I add). And Spencer Sweeney should stick to DJing at annoying hipster clubs.

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I missed the Peter Doigs. The S&M watercolors and Jessica Craig-Martin-ey pics I both thought were derivative, but alright, I guess. Billy Sullivan's slide show was pretty, but my notes on it read "not challenging, not moving--ok." The best thing about them was that the nudes were hot.

    I also kind of liked the DDTV documentary "Shocking and Awful."

  • At 11:03 PM, Anonymous solomon grundy said…

    I don't remember the ddtv doc.

    Agreed about the others, except that for personal reasons I was moved by the slide show - I could see myself having a very similar one in ten years.

  • At 11:07 PM, Anonymous solomon grundy said…

    I wonder how Emma's opening went. Wasn't it last night?

    Also, if she's reading, I did the Biennial with Jack. He was the one who called the watercolor cock "absolutely disgusting." Heh.

  • At 1:41 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I talked to her. It went very well. If she lets us out her we could link to the work and the blog of comments she plans to set up for it.

  • At 8:11 PM, Blogger Emma B said…

    link away, boys:
    check out the slide show, mine's the giant text piece. I'm working on a blog to compliment the piece, will post that link once I'm further along.


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