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One thing we can embrace about the Whitney Museum is that they are not afraid to tinker with the structure of their storied biennial exhibition. Not only are there three separate curators for the 2014 edition, the show’s curators are strictly divided by floor for the first time, giving the show a department store feel (2nd floor houseware, 3rd floor ladies lingerie, etc.). While this edition is more jumbled than some of its predecessors, that aesthetic is clearly reflective of the times. More than at any time in history we have more artists, more styles, more people, and just more stuff to parse through. While this is not a perfect exhibition, it does seem to represent a directional shift that mimics the equality, transparency, and accessibility of our Internet age. Rather than focus too much on this curatorial shift, we’ll simply offer our standout picks for a show that invites multiple viewings. The biennial is on view through May 25.
Ricky Swallow’s patinaed bronze casts of objects are the perfect marriage of humble utility and elegiac beauty. They have the quiet buzz of a Morandi painting, which lets them shine even amongst the larger and louder works in this exhibition.
Jennifer Bornstein’s silent film of nude female modern dancers is a simple, yet powerful assertion of a woman’s body, not as a sex object, but as a living creative being; a metaphor for the artist herself.
Sterling Ruby’s daunting ceramic vessels reference ritual objects as much as the deepest recesses of the body. Their carnality is almost pungent, yet somehow they are glimmering and gorgeous at the same time.
The enormous floor-to-ceiling textile piece by Sheila Hicks is quite a crowd pleaser, but my preference is for her small framed embroideries that explode with color and buzz with lilting geometric shapes.
In a biennial chock-full of female abstractionists, Jacqueline Humphries manages to stand out with her signature large-scale silver and black paintings. Using mathematical models as the basis of her compositions, Humphries manages to successfully make “non-paintings” as she calls them: flattened grids which highlight fugitive flecks of color and buried curvatures.
Miljohn Ruperto’s animated video loop titled Janus portrays a 3D version of the popular illusory drawing of a two-faced “duck-rabbit” during it’s dying breaths. It’s completely arresting; a meditation on life and death as a fluid and infinite process offered through an unexpected medium.
A.L. Steiner’s installation Cost Benefit Analysis is an explosion of identity which investigates the actual diversity within Steiner’s own LBGT community. Like many artists in this exhibition, Steiner attempts to redefine women – both as artmakers and as the subjects of art – in ways they were not allowed to be seen in the past.
Morgan Fisher’s differently scaled and stacked sheetrock rooms (based on various rooms in the new downtown Whitney Museum) look like a low tech ziggurat made for mystic purposes. It’s conceptual art that burns with a life force and utilizes humor in a surprising way.
Paul P. sneaks in a set of exquisitely rendered ink portraits that quietly burn with sensitivity. These works impress with their traditional talents but also their ability to find a firm place of urgency within our technology-driven lives.