Thursday, April 6, 2017

A few comments on the Whitney Biennial

There is much to admire, and much to scratch your head over, at this year’s Whitney Biennial. And I am a firm believer in head-scratching, even more than admiration. (But first I had to learn that it is spelled biennial, not biennale, as I have been doing for the past few decades. Apparently, it is never too late to learn how to spell something.)

If you have any inner ear issues, or a tendency to mal de mer, I would strongly suggest steering clear of the Virtual Reality piece. A sign warns you about the ‘graphic violence’, but I never got as far as the violence because the nausea kicked in.
If you, like my daughter, have a pathological aversion to clowns and mines, you can skip the performance piece, “Liberty” on the rooftop terrace.
Several pieces (well, at least two), seem to be bathroom themed: shower heads and colored tiles.
And then there is the wall of baloney.
In one room full of trees, a young man sat on a plywood box wearing a headpiece constructed from twigs, paper, wire and otherwise random leafy bits. One of the planters had a spirometer lying cockeyed in the dirt. (I took the occasion to explain the post-surgical use of the spirometer to a very uninterested bystander.) Occasionally, the young man gets up to speak about trees and bark, and he seemed very amiable. As museum jobs go, his seems quite pleasant.
Here is a painting I liked.

And this is a photo of sugar cane fields burning. The blue rectangle is from across the way. It has nothing to do with the sugar cane aflame.

My favorite pieces were identical wooden grids, carved by Matt Browning of Seattle, out of single blocks of wood. They appear to be interlocked, as in a chain, but look more closely and you see that there are no seams. They cannot be unlocked. Or undone. Or even explained.

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