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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)

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

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)

Still from Oto Gillen’s ongoing street photography project “New York” (2015–ongoing)

Shara Hughes, “We Windy” (2016)

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) 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

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)

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)

Aliza Nisenbaum, “MOIA’s NYC Women’s Cabinet” (2016)

Works by Carrie Moyer in the 2017 Whitney Biennial

Carrie Moyer, “Glimmer Glass” (2016)

Works by Raúl de Nieves in the 2017 Whitney Biennial

Raúl de Nieves, “Somos Monstros 2” (2016)

Partial view of Larry Bell’s “Pacific Red II” (2017)

GCC, “Local police find fruit with spells” (2017)

Asad Raza, “Root sequence. Mother tongue” (2017)

Detail of Asad Raza’s “Root sequence. Mother tongue” (2017)

Works by Kaari Upson at the 2017 Whitney Biennial

Deana Lawson, “Sons of Cush” (2016)

Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!” (2017)

Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial

KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers), “GUERNSEY” (2017)

Works by KAYA (Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers) at the 2017 Whitney Biennial

Works by Jessi Reaves at the 2017 Whitney Biennial

Tala Madani, “Shitty Disco” (2016)

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, “Trump Rally (And some of them I assume are good people)” (2016)

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, “St. Tammany Parish” (2016)

An-My Lê, “November 9, Graffiti, New Orleans, Louisiana” (2016)

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

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)

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.

Eamon Ore-Giron, “Infinite Regress XX” (2017)

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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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

One reply on “An Omnivorous Tour of the 2017 Whitney Biennial”

  1. Hurrah! Hurrah! Cheesy doesn’t even come close to describing the experience of using every piece of material imaginable and saying nothing.

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