Monday, March 08, 2010

let's push things forward

If you haven't read it already, Kriston has a review of the 2010 Whitney Biennial here. Kriston's conclusions: Thinning the show a bit was a move in the right direction...but overall, not enough of these artists are finding a way to advance the discourse. He complained particularly about conceptual artists failing to move their work much past the origins of their practice in the 1960s.

This is not unlike how I felt after spending an entire day at the Armory Show (read commentary and see images over at
AFC here; read the NYT's take and additional praise of Peter Coffin's double peg-legged pirate here). The show, as expected, was overwhelming, but my impressions were that here, too, artists were looking back more than they were looking forward.

At the Armory, I saw: chunky, ugly paintings done with fluorescent colors and thick impasto (or, conversely, thin, wan, sketchy paintings looking like third-rate versions of
Luc Tuymans); references to guns, rock bands, and porn; uninspiring erector set minimalist sculptures; cartoony paintings that would've worked equally well hanging in a booth at an alt-craft fair; and...taxidermy? There was, as Paddy noted, a lot of strange animal art this year.

And then there's the phenomenon of the gallery that puts all of its eggs into one, big, questionable basket: See the anticlimax of Tony Feher's Pace Wildenstein install, featuring colorful found objects, more colorful found objects, and, oh yeah, pictures of penises. See also Adam McEwen's I Am Curious Yellow in Nicole Klagsbrun's space, featuring yellow carpeting, a phony obituary for
Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose gender was publicly questioned in 2009, and, um, a yellow swastika. (I think McEwen's installation was stronger/more thought provoking than Feher's, but, still.)

I was surprised to find myself enjoying the Sean Landers mini-retrospective that
Friedrich Petzel offered--maybe because I've seen so much bad kitschy, lowbrow, self-referential and deliberately self-defeating work by young artists in the last five years that Landers looks light years better and smarter.

Overall, the energy was good, but I didn't see much that surprised me, or felt new--just different versions of familiar objects and strategies. Maybe that's the best we can hope for right now given the state of the economy.


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