March 3, 2014

2014 Whitney Biennial: Curators' statements, painting links



I'm looking forward to the opening of the Whitney Biennial this week because the selection includes a surprising number of painters, including a special nod from Michelle Grabner toward contemporary abstract painting by women. Perhaps reflecting the wide range of approaches artists engage today, the Whitney rejected a team approach and selected three separate curators: Anthony Elms, Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Stuart Comer, Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA; and Michelle Grabner, artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; to organize their own independent sections of the show. Here are curatorial statements from each, and a list of participating artists with links to most of the painters.

[Image at top: Laura Owens. Courtesy of artist's website.]

Anthony Elms: If the Whitney Biennial is a snapshot of American art at this moment, and if any intimate encounter with American art at this moment must be mediated (as all intimacies these days are), then Marcel Breuer’s museum building here at 945 Madison Avenue is a well-disposed mediation for capturing twenty-four scenes of America. In assembling the artistsand groups I tried to answer a question of Breuer’s from his notes on the building: “What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?”

I looked to answer Breuer’s question with twenty-four artists and groups that fit a statement by poet Susan Howe: “I believed in an American aesthetic of uncertainty that could represent beauty in syllables so scarce and rushed they would appear to expand though they lay half-smothered in local history.” [Emphasis mine. I love this quote. --Sharon] In part because, given the sprawl, assembling an overview of American art these days is a fool’s errand—America is constant expansion. And because, to paraphrase a position declared by musician Mayo Thompson: I try for timeliness, while reserving the right to ask my own dumb questions. After all, it is always preferable to make time rather than to mark time.

Stuart Comer:  How to define “American” in a survey of contemporary American art, especially one with as much history behind it as the Whitney Biennial, is a question that has often challenged, even vexed, curators. As an American who has spent much of the last thirteen years in the United Kingdom, I have been compelled by artists whose work is as hybrid as the significant global, environmental, and technological shifts reshaping the United States. The work I have brought together for the Biennial reflects this, whether through complex relationships between linguistic and visual forms; the interface of digital technologies with more traditional media, and the recorded past with the lived moment; the development of two-dimensional scores, scripts, and patterns into three- or even four-dimensional actions and environments; the challenging of binary conventions of gender; or the intricacy of cosmopolitan, cross-national identities. Ideas about migration and movement are raised here too, as are those related to a position (geographic or otherwise) at a kind of periphery, off the mainland so to speak. The surfaces and spaces of the gallery respond in kind, playing multiple roles—from white cube to theater to cinema to publishing forum, and sometimes all of these at once.

Michelle Grabner: Although it may be far-reaching to think that a Whitney Biennial could be organized as a curriculum for other artists, aiming at pedagogy seemed a worthy ambition. Not because I am an artist and a teacher, nor because I sought to create a democratic survey, but because I didn’t want the frame that the viewer will look through to be a purely subjective take on contemporary American art. Instead, I developed a fourth-floor curriculum that presents identifiable themes, generalities even, that are currently established in the textures of contemporary aesthetic, political, and economic realities. Within this curriculum, contours can be drawn around three overlapping priorities: contemporary abstract painting by women; materiality and affect theory; and art as strategy—in other words, conceptual practices oriented toward criticality. Theoretically, the works that I included will each demand from the viewer a varied network of analysis.

Molly Zuckerman-Hartung. Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey.

103 artists are included in the 2015 Whitney Biennial, and it looks like more than a third are painters. The following is a list, with links to many of the painters' galleries and websites.


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1 comments:

Grabner says:
"Instead, I developed a fourth-floor curriculum that presents identifiable themes, generalities even, that are currently established in the textures of contemporary aesthetic, political, and economic realities. Within this curriculum, contours can be drawn around three overlapping priorities: contemporary abstract painting by women; materiality and affect theory; and art as strategy—in other words, conceptual practices oriented toward criticality. Theoretically, the works that I included will each demand from the viewer a varied network of analysis."
Ad Reinhardt said: "Painting is special, separate, a matter of meditation and contemplation, for me, no action or physical sport. Clarity, completeness, quintessence, quiet. No noise, no schmutz, no schmerz, no fauve schwarmerei. Perfection, spirituality, absoluteness, consonance, coherence. No particularities, no agitation, no automatism, no gesticulation, no grotesquerie. Detachment, disinterestedness, passiveness. No humbug. no button-holing, no mixing up, no exploitation."
And: "Art as something else is always fake."

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