Whitney Biennial News Blast

Nari Ward’s Glory — church of the dead soldier

[NOTE: This post has been changed. We added a few more pictures.]

Here’s our first cut at this year’s Whitney Biennial, an anti-war show if ever there was one. Our first reaction was, ooh, we know a lot of these people. We made a list for you, and we’ll give it to you in another post. And by the way, both Libby’s and Roberta’s flickr sites have extensive photo documentation. Click each name to see the photos.

Dan Colen’s papier mache boulder/bombs footed by the carved wood phrase EAT SHIT AND DIE. This Biennial includes two occurrences of that phrase — surely a first!

Our second reaction was so many people will not like this show — it’s difficult. This is a show that’s cruising the void of pop culture and finding there’s no there there. There aren’t many pretty pictures here or precious objects for your mantle or corporate atrium. It’s a show with angry art in it and grafitti and smashed walls and golden dildoes.

Second occurence of Eat Shit & Die. Dash Snow, chair, record player, mirror, $1 bill and laminated chromogenic color print. suggested installation with an eighth of cocaine on rim of mirrored record.

It’s a show that’s an expression of frustration. People are frustrated with the world and with themselves. It’s a show about innocence lost and a reflection of the country and the culture. We however had a great time dissecting and deconstructing and empathizing with all the anger there.

The show also included quiet contemplative works and some beauty but the anger washed over it all and it’s what we remember.

Jamal Cyrus The end of my beginning 2005. hair, wood and plastic figures. I thought it looked like a house wrapped in a hoodie (neighbor-hoodie?)

Racial themes were on every floor and so were African American artists and a lot of their works were the strongest in the show — partially because they were the angriest. Some of this work uses Jewish-style self-deprecating humor to good effect. No longer embarrassed by Stepin Fetchit behavior, the artists are no longer defining themselves by the white culture and how they’re kowtowing to it but they’re now also angry at aspects of African American culture which make them cringe.

More hair art in Dorothy Iannone’s I was thinking of you, 1975/2006. hand-painted box with video and monitor.

We’re going to dub this biennial the “Don Rickles Show.” We do not mean to imply that we didn’t like the show. We did a lot. But it’s a show full of anti-art and you should know that going in. It most resembles old-fashioned MFA shows where the kids ran amok, uncurated. (Curator Chrissie Iles did say in introductory remarks that 50 percent of the art was new and came in without her having seen it; it strikes us as a fearless way to run a biennial).

Here are our highlights:

Francesco Vezzoli’s tongue in cheek and mouth movie trailer for Caligula.

The casting couch award goes to Francesco Vezzoli for his Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula.” Among the stars Benicio del Toro tenderly holding the fluffy white lap dog while decked in full gladiator regalia; Courtney Love (don’t miss her; she comes way at the end), Helen Mirren, Karen Black (for a wonderful scream), Michelle Phillips. Best tag line in the trailer: “Beyond Sensuality there’s Sexuality. Beyond Sexuality there’s Perversity. Beyond Perversity there’s Caligula.” We don’t get why Vezzoli’s in the show because he’s Italian and he lives in Italy. Isn’t this an American art show?

Zoe Strauss discussing her work with two eager viewers.

The Chapel of Love award goes to Zoe Strauss, our homey extraordinaire for her unbeatable slide show which includes non-stop humanism in a biennial with not a lot of love. Her work if you don’t know it — how can you not if you read artblog?– includes beauty, texture, wit and sharp observation of the world around us.

Nari Ward’s installation “Glory,” gets the alternative tanning salon award for his high voltage coffin (image at top of post).

Liz Larner’s pile o’ red white and blue handlebars gets the black and blue I shouldn’t have ridden my bike into the wall award.(not shown)

The Los Angeles beautification award goes to Mark Bradford whose collage aerial cityscapes talk about surveillance and urban metastasis. They’re beautiful. (not shown)

Lisa Lipinski’s Nightstand

The sprawling furniture award to Lisa Lipinski for her Rube Goldberg Nightstand from the dark side.

The bearded lady award goes to Dorothy Iannone’s I Was Thinking of You III, a video installation. (shown above)

The Abu Ghraib award goes to Monica Majoli for bringing delicate watercolor to a surprising subject — lifesize visions of people in chains and rubber (not shown).

Benchmark award goes to the Whitney Museum for remembering that videos and slide shows are best watched sitting down. We rested our weary dogs every moment we could snatch. They even went the extra mile and installed mini-movie theatre seating for the ribald Caligula.

Kori Newkirk’s “Glint” made of artificial hair, beads, dye, aluminum.

Hair sculpture award (tie) to Kori Newkirk for “Glint” a room-like installation that salutes plaited hair as decor; and Jamal Cyrus for “The End of My Beginning” (shown above) a miniature white house topped with Afro hair that covers the landscape as well.

Urs Fischer’s The Intelligence of Flowers (installation holes in gallery walls) and Untitled (branches) dripping candle installation

The Joseph Beuys meets Gordon Matta-Clark meets Artur Barrio award goes to Urs Fischer for his spectacular punched out walls and spinning candle contraption. We loved climbing over the wall fragments and loved looking through the holes framing other peoples art.

Robert A. Pruitt’s Throw Back, with the number 66, a logo and sports stripes embroidered on

The love and hate award to Robert A. Pruitt’s for his loving gorgeous drawing “All Day I Dream about Senegal,” and two angry as shit sculptures, “Glass Slippers” and “Throw Back.” They all knocked our socks off.

Matthew Monahan’s installation a la Filene’s Basement.

Matthew Monahan wins the Filene’s Basement award for his installation that reminded us of David Altmejd’s 2004 Biennial piece that looked like the apes took over the jewelry department on the first floor.

Paul Chan’s 1st Light, digital video installation

Paul Chan gets all spiritual on us and we go “huh?” The piece looked like a flattened James Turrell light projection with some hoodoo voodoo shadows. We liked his Henry Darger parody at the Carnegie International much better.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Chariot (The Day After the End of Days), materials include Polish hay cart and bucket (after Jonestown) and 20 state flags

We want Matthew Day Jackson’s “Chariot” to carry us home, please on fluorescent lighting.

Another pic of Urs Fischer’s punched out walls. Note the repeat O’s in the wall and on the floor. Could be a candidate for next O show.

Tony Oursler video installation with the Graham boys (Dan and Rodney) et alia gets the “I regret being a stoner and I’m going to tell you all about it” award for their piece: DTAOT (Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty): Combine. Brings together the current drug-friendly culture and the 60s drug-friendly culture and slaps em both (not shown).

More post will be coming and more images, when we get some time. The show doesn’t open until tomorrow, and runs until May 28.

For running commentary on the Biennial, you can visit Zoe Strauss’s blog here. She’s got her laptop with while she’s up there for all the festivities.