Whitney Biennial

A friend and I met up in New York City to take in the Whitney Biennial, one of the largest and most highly regarded shows of contemporary art in America.  I consider myself a fan of art and eagerly awaited the wall of amazing pieces the Whitney would contain.  What ensued was a two and a half hour odyssey of confusion and farce.

Again, I like art well into the Modern period.  I don’t mind Jackson Pollack and enjoy Mark Rothko and even have a soft spot for Kandinsky but the biennial contents were largely an emetic.  Modern art was allowed to not make sense as it reeled from the horrors of World War II.  Contemporary art has no such excuse as “the world is moving too fast” is a complaint not an observation.  The pace of change at current is understandable and while you can talk about your feeling of alienation don’t expect that to be the norm.  Value systems aren’t suddenly breaking down, they’re being challenged, and some people fall into ennui when there is no clear winner.  I find this scenario exciting and neat and there were no pieces that in any way reflected that sentiment which mildly irked me.  There was a lot of cardboard, a lot of string, a lot of blather on placards but nothing that either spoke to me or reflected what I considered to be the “now”.  The reflective pace of art is somewhat slow compared to essays, photographers, and even architecture as the community collects, defines, and then creates.  I will hopefully go to the biennial in two years and see if the contemporary art community has at all gotten its shit together.  If it hasn’t, then figurative art of this kind may be left behind as social commentary.

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