Whitney Biennial 2019

Review

of an Exhibition

by Liane Martins Lindner

Published on June 06, 2019

  • Description:

    Since 1932 the Whitney museum started a tradition of inviting a collection of American artist to expose on its gallery. The exhibition aim was to break free from a formal prize oriented event to bring to the public a broader and latest range of contemporary art representation, mostly focused on painting and sculptures. In 1972, this exhibition became bigger, included other mediums (e.g., installation, film and video, photography, et al.), and changed to being presented every two years, each year with a different curatorial direction. This is the Whitney Biennial we know today.

    I have to admit that contemporary art is not my primary interest and that I often find it difficult to appreciate. But as a curious and open person, I make a point of keep trying. My lack of knowledge in this field has served me with caution when expressing opinions about contemporary art shows. At least I know some art history to understand the temporary valued placed on new art, and the many artworks that, in the past, were called insane or worthless, to later on be recognized as masterpieces, and their artist hailed as precursors of new and groundbreaking artistic movements.

    Anyway, it was the most pleasant of the recent spring evenings with a proud full moon on display, and I knew at least we would enjoy incredible vistas from the new Whitney building terraces. Worst-case scenario, there was another exhibit Where We Are: Selections from Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960, which would undoubtedly, be pleasing.

    With faith in my heart, I went for a hopeful enlightening time at the Whitney Biennial 2019. The curatorial text suggested that the exhibition was not going to shy away from controversy and provocation and that recent criticism of the museum has encouraged dialog. Furthermore, the curatorial text says that many artists focused on “the mining of history as a means to reimagine the present or future; a profound consideration of race, gender, and equity.” I would say this is not the most original starting point, but no doubt is significant and ever current.

    The exhibition spread over three dedicated floors, and the artwork displayed on a traditional way — paintings on the wall, most sculptures organized in the center of the rooms. Digital art arranged either on walls or in the middle of the room, depending on its dimensions or intent angle of appreciation. There is one artwork with a dedicated room. An installation scaffolding-like structures, where, at certain times, dancers perform. It was quite easy to navigate within the places and admire the artworks from different angles. The art was display in a way that seems to be truthful to the Biennal’s original mandate, a survey of what is current. Navigating the floors, I did not feel I was being “sold” on any particular work or artist, they all seem to have the same importance. Within the selection curated for us, the exhibition layout gave me the freedom to roam around, choose my favorite work, and why.

    It was a relaxing experience, and there was some interesting work. Did it rock my word? No. Even a little bit? No. I saw the Whitney Biennal two weeks before I wrote this review. I hoped that if I gave some time, some of the art I saw would elicit new ideas or feelings. But it didn’t. In general, I felt that most of the artwork looked like something I have seen before. Even the racial or equity charged ones, failed to invited further thoughts.

    I would not say it was a waste of time to go and see the Whitney Biennal 2019. The exhibition was pleasant enough, and I love and respect the efforts of museums too much to say something like that. But that evening, what moved me most was the view of the moon from Whitney’s terrace.

Latest Comments (1)

wow!

by Kathleen Mclean - June 11, 2019

I understand that the overall experience did not affect you strongly, but am curious about which artworks were in any way memorable for you, if any. I didn’t get a sense from your review about the scale of the exhibition, or how many artworks were selected, and since I haven’t seen it myself, I am only guessing that there were dozens of artworks, based on prior exhibitions. Did any of the artworks stay with you afterwords, even slightly? If not, why not? Do you have any questions for exhibition organizers? I get the sense that you had a relatively pleasant experience, but why do you think none of the artworks stuck with you?

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