Last night I had the pleasure of attending Passing Time, the first in a series of events curated by Adam Putnam at NYU’s 80WSE Gallery. I was invited by Hugh who is currently working at the gallery and we were met by Ted. As Hugh put it, it was nice to have the band back together. The evening featured the work of Dan Torop who has a digital LISP language piece titled “Virtual Bowery” composed during a residency at eyebeam. It was after the event where Ted reminded me that I hadn’t yet written a piece on the Whitney, so here we go…..
What originally brought me uptown to the Biennial was a Vogue-tastic performance entitled “FIVE” by artist Raashad Newsome. I really like Raashad’s work and have been following his progress through the Ramis Barquet Gallery in Chelsea. The performance took place in the first floor gallery and the fashionable crowd trickled into the lobby. I had to strain on tippy toes to get a peek, and being all but 5′ 2″ still found myself grinning and swaying at the freestyle rap and occasional nylon clad flailing arms. A couple in front of me where so intensely and artfully fashionable, I found them to be somewhat of a distraction. The piece lasted around 30 minutes and as the crowd dispersed I fit into the elevator and commenced upon the rest of the Biennial.
I think what has led to my delay in writing about the Whitney, is a rare instance where I don’t know what to say. The artwork featured is really well curated, the rooms don’t feel overdone and many of the pieces communicate in a dialogue we are familiar with. What has changed is that less artists are featured and within the scope of those present, for the first time in the history of the Biennial, women rule roost.
I sought out the small landscapes of 303 Gallery & NYU’s Maureen Gallace. I surveyed the photographs of women with self inflicted burns and the scars of an Iraqi veteran whose face was disfigured in the war. I sat for video pieces in dark rectangular rooms and stood in the headlights of a Ghostbuster styled vehicle with video in the windshield by The Bruce High Quality Foundation. I weaved my way through the crowd of a free Friday night and as I worked my way down, wasn’t left with a bad taste, but felt a bit underwhelmed.
My favorite room/work of the exhibit (if I must deem a favorite) are large-scale framed watercolors by Portland artist Storm Tharp. The works are both skillful, innovative and aesthetically pleasing. They also reminded me of comments I’ve heard about my own work whereas one plays with the level of intense detail on the surface. Storm achieves this well by playing up the fluffiness of fur collars and other accessories. I also really enjoy the accompanying video piece where a woman is directing the “Patrons” in the gallery. Its an inclusive moment with a directness that feels quite individualized yet universal.
The Whitney Biennial is on view until May 30th, 2010.
All images taken with my iPhone, Top two from “Five” by Rashaad Newsome, other images Storm Tharp.
— Posted from my iPhone