Photo Essays

An Omnivorous Tour of the 2017 Whitney Biennial

See highlights from the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which opens to the public later this week.

Installation view of the 2017 Whitney Biennial with Pope.L's "Claim (Whitney Version)" (2017), an installation that includes 2,755 slices of bologna (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Installation view of the 2017 Whitney Biennial with Pope.L’s “Claim (Whitney Version)” (2017), an installation that includes 2,755 slices of bologna (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

The 2017 Whitney Biennial, the institution’s first since its move to the Meatpacking District, opens to the public later this week, but already the buzz is positive. Gathering works by a modest 63 artists on the museum’s vast fifth and sixth floors (along with installations in conference rooms, terraces, the lobby, stairwell, and off-site at the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy), the exhibition feels much, much less daunting than recent Biennials held in the Breuer building, which often seemed overstuffed and cramped. Credit is largely due to co-curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, who give the work (and visitors) room to breathe and, for the most part, have given participating artists their own alcoves, galleries, or space for large-scale installations. This Whitney Biennial feels airy, which is a first in recent memory.

But it’s also saturated with recurring themes and formal motifs. At Monday’s preview, some of the most immediately apparent trends included an exceptionally strong showing by the Biennial’s painters (including Carrie Moyer and Aliza Nisenbaum) and a relative plethora of works dealing with social justice and institutional critique (including Cameron Rowland and the Occupy Museums collective). There are eye-popping installations (by Samara Golden, Raúl de Nieves, and Ajay Kurian), transporting video works (by Anicka Yi and the Postcommodity collective, among others), and works that channel the current socio-political climate of frustration and outrage (including by Henry Taylor, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, and An-My Lê). Though we’ll have a proper review in time for the public opening, here’s a taste of what’s in store at the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Jon Kessler, "Evolution" (2016)
Jon Kessler, “Evolution” (2016)
Detail of Cauleen Smith's "In the Wake" (2017) banners
Detail of Cauleen Smith’s “In the Wake” (2017) banners
Detail of Pope.L's "Claim (Whitney Version)" (2017), an installation that includes 2,755 slices of bologna
Detail of Pope.L’s “Claim (Whitney Version)” (2017), an installation that includes 2,755 slices of bologna
Dana Schutz, "Elevator" (2017)
Dana Schutz, “Elevator” (2017), which faces the elevators on the museum’s fifth floor
Partial view of Samara Golden's installation "The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes" (2017)
Partial view of Samara Golden’s installation “The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes” (2017)
Partial view of Samara Golden's installation "The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes" (2017)
Partial view of Samara Golden’s installation “The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes” (2017)
Still from Oto Gillen's ongoing street photography project "New York" (2015–ongoing)
Still from Oto Gillen’s ongoing street photography project “New York” (2015–ongoing)
Shara Hughes, "We Windy" (2016)
Shara Hughes, “We Windy” (2016)
Torey Thornton, "What Is Sexuality, Is the Scale Infinite Similar to a Line" (2017)
Torey Thornton, “What Is Sexuality, Is the Scale Infinite Similar to a Line” (2017)
Detail of the Occupy Museums installation "Debtfair" (2017)
Detail of the Occupy Museums installation “Debtfair” (2017)
Detail of the Occupy Museums installation "Debtfair" (2017) with works by Sofia Maldonado (left) and Adrian Roman (right)
Detail of the Occupy Museums installation “Debtfair” (2017) with works by Sofia Maldonado (left) and Adrian Roman (right)
Casey Gollan and Victoria Sobel, "Reflections" (2017), in collaboration with Owen Law, Maya Krtic, Jacob Jackmauh, and Jakob Biernat
Casey Gollan and Victoria Sobel, “Reflections” (2017), in collaboration with Owen Law, Maya Krtic, Jacob Jackmauh, and Jakob Biernat
Julien Nguyen, "Executive Solutions" (2017)
Julien Nguyen, “Executive Solutions” (2017)
Installation view of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, with paintings by Frances Stark and, at center, Jessi Reaves's "Ottoman with Parked Chairs" (2017)
Installation view of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, with paintings by Frances Stark and, at center, Jessi Reaves’s “Ottoman with Parked Chairs” (2017)
Irena Haiduk's "SERVERS FOR .YU" and "Frauenbank" (both 2017), an homage to a woman-owned bank founded in Berlin in 1910
Irena Haiduk’s “SERVERS FOR .YU” and “Frauenbank” (both 2017), an homage to a woman-owned bank founded in Berlin in 1910
Works by John Riepenhoff (with a contribution from Michelle Grabner at left)
Works by John Riepenhoff (with a contribution from Michelle Grabner at left)
Aliza Nisenbaum, "MOIA's NYC Women's Cabinet" (2016)
Aliza Nisenbaum, “MOIA’s NYC Women’s Cabinet” (2016)
Works by Carrie Moyer in the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by Carrie Moyer in the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Carrie Moyer, "Glimmer Glass" (2016)
Carrie Moyer, “Glimmer Glass” (2016)
Works by Raúl de Nieves in the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by Raúl de Nieves in the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Raúl de Nieves, "Somos Monstros 2" (2016)
Raúl de Nieves, “Somos Monstros 2” (2016)
Partial view of Larry Bell's "Pacific Red II" (2017)
Partial view of Larry Bell’s “Pacific Red II” (2017)
GCC, "Local police find fruit with spells" (2017)
GCC, “Local police find fruit with spells” (2017)
Asad Raza, "Root sequence. Mother tongue" (2017)
Asad Raza, “Root sequence. Mother tongue” (2017)
Detail of Asad Raza's "Root sequence. Mother tongue" (2017)
Detail of Asad Raza’s “Root sequence. Mother tongue” (2017)
Works by Kaari Upson at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by Kaari Upson at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Deana Lawson, "Sons of Cush" (2016)
Deana Lawson, “Sons of Cush” (2016)
Henry Taylor, "THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!" (2017)
Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!” (2017)
Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers), "GUERNSEY" (2017)
KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers), “GUERNSEY” (2017)
Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by Jessi Reaves at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Works by Jessi Reaves at the 2017 Whitney Biennial
Tala Madani, "Shitty Disco" (2016)
Tala Madani, “Shitty Disco” (2016)
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, "Trump Rally (And some of them I assume are good people)" (2016)
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, “Trump Rally (And some of them I assume are good people)” (2016)
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, "St. Tammany Parish" (2016)
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, “St. Tammany Parish” (2016)
An-My Lê, "November 9, Graffiti, New Orleans, Louisiana" (2016)
An-My Lê, “November 9, Graffiti, New Orleans, Louisiana” (2016)
Detail of Ajay Kurian's installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, "Childermass" (2017)
Detail of Ajay Kurian’s installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, “Childermass” (2017)
Aaron Flint Jamison, "Footer/Content Chassis/This Pull Request" (2017), an installation in a Whitney conference room
Aaron Flint Jamison, “Footer/Content Chassis/This Pull Request” (2017), an installation in a Whitney conference room
Jessi Reaves, "Barley Twist Squat Lamps" (2017) in a Whitney conference room
Jessi Reaves, “Barley Twist Squat Lamps” (2017) in a Whitney conference room
Detail of Ajay Kurian's installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, "Childermass" (2017)
Detail of Ajay Kurian’s installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, “Childermass” (2017)
Detail of Ajay Kurian's installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, "Childermass" (2017)
Detail of Ajay Kurian’s installation in the Whitney Museum stairwell, “Childermass” (2017)
Installation view of Rafa Esparaza's adobe brick installation "Figure Ground: Beyond the White Field" (2017), with stone sculptures by Beatriz Cortez and photos by Dorian Ulises López Marcias
Installation view of Rafa Esparaza’s adobe brick installation “Figure Ground: Beyond the White Field” (2017), with stone sculptures by Beatriz Cortez and photos by Dorian Ulises López Marcias
Gala Porras-Kim, "Reconstructed Southwest Artifact" (ca 900/2017), which is accompanied by documents detailing the artist's purchase of an authentic pottery shard on eBay and the Whitney Museum's acknowledgment of his offer to gift it to the museum.
Gala Porras-Kim, “Reconstructed Southwest Artifact” (ca 900/2017), which is accompanied by documents detailing the artist’s purchase of an authentic pottery shard on eBay and the Whitney Museum’s acknowledgment of his offer to gift it to the museum.
Eamon Ore-Giron, "Infinite Regress XX" (2017)
Eamon Ore-Giron, “Infinite Regress XX” (2017)
Detail of Cauleen Smith's "In the Wake" (2017) banners in the Whitney Museum lobby
Detail of Cauleen Smith’s “In the Wake” (2017) banners in the Whitney Museum lobby

The 2017 Whitney Biennial opens to the public on March 17 and continues through June 11 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan).

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