Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

The, um, Whitney Biennial

March 22, 2008 - 8:28pm -- Carol Diehl
In my world the Whitney Biennial was such a non-event that I almost forgot to write about it. I went two weeks ago during a rainstorm and rushed through, intending to come back another time for a closer look. Unlike the recent Asian Contemporary Art Fair, which I assumed would be a quick take but where I ended up staying for three hours, nothing in the Biennial entreated me to linger. Instead it came off as gloomy, dated and stagnant, a littered graveyard of academic post-conceptual art. Further, the curatorial offerings as well as the Breuer-designed museum were completely upstaged by the newly renovated Armory at 67th and Park (site of Part II of the Biennial, admission free), where we arrived soaked to the skin. Hardly any art had yet been installed but we didn’t feel the lack as we wandered from room to room, our damp condition forgotten as we reveled in building’s opulence. Built in the late 1800s, the place is totally OTT—a fusion of too many styles and motifs to reference—but its creators, happily, weren’t cool enough to care. They put everything they had into creating an aesthetic experience—and for soldiers, yet. It made me realize how weary I am of cool, of irony, of scorn masquerading as art. I can still handle profundity (no danger of over-exposure there), but I want something to look at, something that gives me faith.

After wandering around, three of us flopped onto a couch in the Armory's vast entry hall. Huddling together for warmth we stayed nearly an hour, while I got up every so often to look at the one of the few completed pieces, Swiss artist

And I like what Breuning said in a video interview, that he "finds creativity through pleasure," a fairly radical statement for an artist these days. I know all too well that there are horrid things going on in the world, but we also need something to live for.


Reviews of the Whitney Biennial:

Holland Cotter in the New York Times

Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker

Jerry Saltz in New York


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