Preview The Whitney’s Biennial Exhibition


In times like these, art that holds up a mirror up to society and attempts to make sense of the zeitgeist is especially valuable. This is the clear intent behind the Whitney’s Biennial exhibition in New York, which is a survey of contemporary art that aims to both integrate new works into the museum’s collection as well as to serve as a cultural time capsule. As its name suggests, the Biennial is staged every two years. The show has been a signature of the museum since the first one in 1932, and has always been meant to showcase new art and highlight upcoming artists. It will be the first to take place in the Whitney’s new building which opened in 2015.

This year’s exhibition encompasses pieces from 63 artists in total and spans the entire 5th and 6th floors of the museum. All of the works deal directly or indirectly with the current tumultuous climate in America. In the words of one of the exhibition’s curators, Mia Locks, “there is something about American culture and American society that feels very much at stake.”

This tension is palpable in the exhibition, however, the approaches of the artists included vary widely—both in their chosen medium and how they have chosen to grapple with the seminal issues facing America in their work. Some of the pieces are horrifically graphic, while others strike a more hopeful tone, illuminating the potential of art to act as a means of resistance and a space for healing. For example, on the second floor of the show there is an orchard –like sculptural installation of potted trees that feels meditative. Situated next to it is a virtual reality installation in which the viewer watches a man get beaten to death while a disembodied voice reads the Torah, a clear commentary on antisemitism.

The duality that’s present throughout the Biennial is not haphazard, but intentional. The show is meant to discuss polarization in America in its many forms, and does so by contrasting the perspectives and approaches of a diverse group of artists. In his opening remarks Adam Weinberg, Chief Program director at the Whitney, said the underlying theme of the show is to “ponder, provoke, and protest given the heightened almost palpable divisions that have been growing in our country.” Though this anger and frustration is pervasive in all of the works on display, Weinberg says it is not an expression of hopelessness; “artists don’t just see what is, they see what can be. Accordingly, the exhibition offers answers about how we got here and a platform for collective action.”

The Whitney Biennial is on view from today, March 17th until June 11th, 2017.


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createdAt:Fri, 17 Mar 2017 18:54:51 +0000