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During the opening remarks for the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Chief Curator Donna de Salvo said that this year’s exhibition was “one biennial with three distinct points of view,” so we’ve decided to explore that diversity in perspectives with three separate photo essays of the Biennial — one per floor and curator.
Today, we start with Michelle Grabner’s display on the fourth floor, which was the most tightly curated and coherent of the three.
While Grabner’s introductory wall text was a little off-putting — she “considered the job of organizing the Biennial as being more ‘curriculum building’ than curating,” whatever that means — her selections were attractive, conceptually interesting, and fearless in its integration of porcelain, ceramic, and more painting than we’ve been accustomed to seeing at recent Whitney Biennials.
If Grabner’s decision to include rather lackluster notebooks of author David Foster Wallace seemed odd, her general exploration of who is an artist nowadays was quite fascinating. Do Wallace’s scribblings offer us a largely ignored visual dimension to his writings or are they simply the relics of his literary output?
When Philip Vanderhyden re-creates Gretchen Bender’s “People in Pain,” which was originally made in 1988, should we see the result as a collaboration or an homage by one towards the other? And what about Donelle Woolford’s riff on Richard Prince’s Joke paintings? Woolford’s versions highlight the social history of jokes by emphasizing the fact they’re transformed by each teller in a simple gesture of cultural appropriation. The joke is further complicated by the fact that Woolford herself is a fictional character made up by Joe Scanlan, a riff on the idea of the artist itself.
Grabner’s selections also take a serious look at abstract painting by women artists, who compete in the traditionally male-dominated world of American abstract painting by marking their territory through paint. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a boisterous conversation between contemporary female painters in a major museum. Works by Amy Sillman, Louise Fishman, Jacqueline Humphries, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, to name a few, are central to this artistic dialogue.
The most haunting work on the fourth floor was Zoe Leonard’s room-sized camera obscura (it was the only work on the floor curated by Anthony Elms and not Grabner). Though the work did not seem like much to the human eye, my camera lens captured a magical view of the outside world projected into the darkened room.
In the coming days we’ll publish photo essays from the other floors, and we’ll certainly discuss the threads and ideas that emerge throughout the Biennial, but until then enjoy our small visual tour of the fourth floor.
The 2014 Whitney Biennial opens Friday, March 7 at the Whitney Museum (945 Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan) and continues until May 25.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…