Gallery shows

The anti-disembodied

On view at the Whitney: Dawn Clements, “Mrs. Jessica Drummond’s (‘My Reputation,’ 1945), ” 2010, pen with ink on paper, 87.5 x 240.” Collection of the artist; courtesy Pierogi, New York

In the February issue of The Brooklyn Rail, the ARTSEEN editors and advisory committee applaud Roberta Smith for the stand she takes in Post-Minimal To The Max and encourage her to continue developing the ideas she lays out in the essay. Smith suggests that current museum shows “share a visual austerity and coolness of temperature that are dispiritingly one-note. After encountering so many bare walls and open spaces, after examining so many amalgams of photography, altered objects, seductive materials and Conceptual puzzles awaiting deciphering, I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand.”

The good news is that the 2010 Whitney Biennial, which I saw yesterday during the press preview, goes beyond the coy, disembodied international art practices that Smith laments, and presents a new attention to physicality, in terms of object, process, and concept. Objectmaking and sensual experience (sight, sound, touch, movement) are combined with conceptual strategy to create a wonderful, compellingly complex show, which opens to the public today. I’ll post a Biennial report which will include plenty of painting, but, in the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the Rail article.

 “As Ms. Smith made quite clear, New York museum curators ‘have a responsibility to their public and to history to be more ecumenical, to do things that seem to come from left field. They owe it to the public to present a balanced menu that involves painting as well as video and photography and sculpture. They need to think outside the hive-mind, both distancing themselves from their personal feelings to consider whats being wrongly omitted and tapping into their own subjectivity to show us what they really love.’

“We would go a step further and state unequivocally that many of these individuals have not only shirked their public responsibility, they have turned the museums into playgrounds for an elitist group of trustees and globetrotting art fair devotees, stocking their exhibitions primarily from ‘powerful galleries.’ And if our position is not clear enough, it will become more so in the coming months through in-depth articles and well-researched drawings examining the actions of particular individuals, their public statements and their exhibition track record….

“Over the past forty years, many tenured philosophers and would-be philosophers have spent much of their time justifying their intolerance of any activity that can be characterized as creative. Making something ‘out of intense personal necessity, often by hand’ has repeatedly been denounced as old-fashioned, backward-looking, and, worst of all, romantic. Whether they have aligned themselves with Plato, Kant, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Saussure, Barthes or some combination of theoretically orthodox DNA, these zealots believe that anything made by hand is inferior to a product of the mind. This is the ghetto into which painting, drawing and sculpture, along with certain kinds of film and photography, have been driven, the door locked and the key thrown away…. ” Read more.

Related post: 18 painters selected for 2010 Whitney Biennial

One Comment

  1. I agree whole heartedly with the argument of the Rail article. The problem with the Whitney, in my opinion, is that it is such a horrible place to see art. It reminds me of the Brutalist style of the Hayward Gallery in London, which was quite close to my home when I still lived in the UK.
    Philip Hartigan

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