The Whitney Museum of American Art opened its 77th Biennial this month. It also happens to be the last survey of American art that will take place in its historic, landmarked Breuer building on East 75th Street. While the Whitney isn't closing, just relocating to New York City's Meatpacking District alongside the High Line Park in a brand new space designed by Renzo Piano, this Biennial does seem to carry an added weight and importance. The idea ties all the 103 artists and curators together is a sense of immediacy and history.
To have an exhibit of this scope, size, and renown be a collaborative effort of multiple curators is expected by now. What is unexpected is how the Whitney chose to do so this time: Michelle Grabner, Anthony Elms, and Stuart Comer have each been given a floor of their own to design and curate. The result is a department store of an exhibition; the viewer travels from floor to floor seeing entirely different aesthetics and designs. The best way to approach the curatorial trifecta is to take the stairs—up, then down—and allow the exhibition to flow.
It's not impossible to go over each work in detail, but there are certainly highlights that should not be missed.
Photo credits: John Hutt
A relativly young artist from Chicago, Elijah Burgher's "Beacon to Beacon" showcases the artist's signature delicate colored pencil works that comment on gay culture of today. Compare the Dionysiac celebration of an orgy/fight in the background with the awkward pose of the men standing before it.
Gary Indiana's ambitious work "Untitled (Stanley Park)" includes an LED circle displaying footage of Presido
Modelo Prison as well as gel prints of nude young men and philosophy text. Oh, it's also partly a video of jellyfish.
"Stanley Park" is the artist's musings on the all-seeing eye of the state, and it juxtaposes Big Brother with intimate, taboo images.
For those confused by the inclusion of jellyfish, Indiana has helpfully included explanations as to what the hell a jellyfish has to do with anything. (It should be noted, if you need to explain it, it's not really obvious). He is missing the fact that, unlike the oppressive police state, they are delicious.
Stanley Park-Presido Modelo was later used by Castro (who was once there himself) to hold dissidents, then it was almost blown up. It is now a museum and national monument, presumably a monument to man's inhumanity to man in the 20th century.
Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty" was a welcome relief from the bombardment of four floors of mostly visual experiences. The visitor wore blackened glasses to render them blind and wore headphones through which Smithson's recordings were played.
A large hallway of paintings by Keith Mayerson just at the exit to the final floor, a hectic collage with highlights like this version of James Dean
Mayerson hits all over pop culture: that looks like James Deen in a tree.
Steve Reinke and Jessie Mott concluded that Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra would eventually be made into a children's book ("not his other works, obviously, just Zarathustra") and "Rib Gets in the Way" is a film that shows just that.
"A little poison now and then: that maketh pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death." The last men (as adorable animals) discussing the idea of the Ubermench with Zathurasta.
In Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst's photography series, Relationship, the trans couple document their relationship, which they began around the same time they began their transition. They have an incredible relationship and it made everyone jealous.
4th Floor Selfie: This is Shana Lutker's giant and shiny sculpture "Protestation!" in which the viewer's own reflection is an integral part as the room warps around them. As this good looking person is demonstrating.
Bjarne Melgaard's instillation piece stood out in the impeccably clean and white walled Whitney.
Melgaard is one of the last purposefully gritty and scummy queers who take delight in breaking every taboo available. Here he presents a video of two monkeys fucking.
It's not all hypersexual and uncomfortable, Melgaard includes plush couches and relatively benign imagery. Except, is that a vagina monster in the lower right?
It is an interactive piece and viewers can sit on the couch shaped like lips and play with cute pillows. Yet, at the exit is Melgaard's giant purple dick (we decided we couldn't show this on the site, so you'll have to believe us). It's a disturbing image to carry while viewing the rest of the gallery.
The Whitney Biennial continues through May 25.