Here's a confession: When I'm at work, and I get a little bored, I read my own blog. Partly to go over the spelling and grammar and to consider hyperlinks I could add, but mostly to entertain myself--I guess I'm like those folk who really like looking at themselves in the mirror all day. This past week, whenever I typed in briggie.blogspot.com, I was often quite bummed to discover that there was no new content. Of course, I had only myself to blame. I guess it's nice to have real life activities to do instead of time to write about those activities. So, anyway, here's some Saturday afternoon content to hold you over until I can post some new stuff (I've got plenty to get around to). You may remember, back in June, when I reviewed Dave Hickey's "Air Guitar"--well, I've found the article I wrote for the law school paper that started my whole Dave Hickey adventure. So, basically what you're about to read here is a months old article about a now closed art exhibit that I wrote for a completely different "publication" (I put "publication" in quotes to express hesitance towards use of the word to describe both this blog and the NYU Commentator) but perhaps you will find it clever, interesting, or slightly smart. Or you will find it to be something you can read. That's mostly what it is.
The Whitney Biennial is Back Again
The Whitney Biennial has come to town once more! Of course, I write this as someone who only moved to New York eight months ago and hadn’t even heard of the Biennial before it opened in the middle of March. You’re certainly entitled to ask of me, “Then what qualifies you to be writing a review of this preeminent survey exhibition of the goings on in contemporary art?” Well, I am the Commentator Arts editor, aren’t I? (And still you may ask, “And what qualifies you to be the Commentator Arts editor?” To which I can only reply “Well, I wrote a review of the Whitney Biennial, didn’t I?”)
But anyway, in case you (like me) didn’t know, every two years the Whitney museum (that big modern grey gargoyle of a building on Madison Avenue) holds their Biennial (yeah, that was a little redundant) to provide a general view of what’s happening in contemporary art. For a casual art fan like myself, nothing could be better. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, and video installation after video installation are spread out over three of the museum’s floors and give provide the visitor with a wide range of things to think about, admire, or turn their nose up at. The collection ranges from Schiele-like contour line portraits by one Chloe Piene to a room full of projections of deconstructed scenes from Super Mario Bros. 2 by Cory Arcangel. Despite the little show I put on in the first paragraph, I’ve been to enough exhibitions to be past the “You Call this Art?” phase of exhibition-attendance, but the Whitney Biennial contains a good number of pieces that would fall into that category. But for every wigwam made of white pelts filled with white powder (and a sculpture of ET) inside, there’s a properly-titled “Pictures of What Happens on Every Page of Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’”by Zak Smith—a series of 755 small drawings, paintings, and photographs illustrating, well, what happens on every page of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.” (Having tried to read the book several times, I was especially taken by this piece and excited to recognize the occasional page.) Then, there are pieces like assume vivid astro focus’ “assume vivid astro focus”—a room sized installation that can only be described as a psychedelic dance-club super explosion (complete with thumping Mexican techno) that transcend both inexperience and snobbery and exists on the “I’m glad someone thought of this” plane.
You may ask what business I have recommending heading to the Upper East Side to visit a museum as finals are approaching, but, fortunately for all, the Biennial runs until May 30th. That leaves you with well over two-weeks to get up to the Whitney after you’ve sent your last test off to the ExamSoft mainframe. And to help you plan your visit, keep in mind that Friday nights from 6 to 9 visitors of the museum may pay what they choose (instead of $12) for admission—a great deal, but it draws crowds big enough to make getting around the museum a little uncomfortable—and when admiring the madness of assume vivid astro focus, you might find you need a little more room for dancing.
Addendum: Wow, it's like everything I write has to mention Thomas Pynchon. For more on the now-deceased Biennial, check out its still living website.