The 2014 Whitney Biennial Creates Mosaic of American Art

With 103 participants, three curators,  Michelle Grabner, Anthony Elms and Stuart Comer, designed each floor of the Whitney Museum for the 2014 Whitney Biennial to their liking while reminding us that American art comprises a little bit of everything and then some.


Carol Jackson, Whitney Museum of American Art

Carol Jackson, Youthful Beast, 2013, wood, papier-mâché, and inkjet print, 2014 Whitney Biennial, New York.


The second floor Mildred & Herbert Lee Galleries were curated by Anthony Helms and features works by 24 artists including the late Terry Adkins, Charline von Heyl, and Rebecca Morris. Elms likens the works by the 24 artists as “twenty-four scenes of America,” addressing museums mission to show American art. The works engage with one another in a traditional way; to assemble this floor of the exhibition, Elms asked himself a question straight from Whitney Museum architect Marcel Breuer’s notes, ”What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?” Overall, the floor has a quintessential museum atmosphere. Digital work by Gary Indiana, juxtaposed an oil on canvas work by Rebecca Morris emphasizes the significant change in what the artist’s canvas has become, while Carol Jackson’s Pandemonium and Terry Adkins Avarium are earthy and rustic examples of contemporary art.


Sheila Hicks, Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Art

Sheila Hicks, Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column (detail), 2013-14, acrylic, linen, cotton, bamboo, and silk.


The third floor Peter Norton Family Galleries were curated by Stuart Comer. Addressing the “global, environmental and technological shifts” changing the United States, here you will find artists like Ei Arakawa and his headpiece structures shaped like Hawaiian and Manhattan islands, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst’s Relationship, a series of forty-six photographs, and Dashiell Manley’s The Great Train Robbery, a multipart installation and video project inspired by the silent Western film of the same name made in 1903.


Ei Arakawa, Whitney Museum of American Art

Ei Arakawa , Hawaiian Presence (Hawaii), 2014, fabric straw, and plastic. Headpiece structure by Ellen Christine Couture, and wood structure by Michael Caputo.


The Fourth Floor Emily Fisher Landau Galleries curated by Grabner present what she describes as a “curriculum that presents identifiable themes…currently established in the textures of contemporary aesthetic, political, and economic realities.” Ken Lum’s Midway Shopping Plaza features fictitious plaza center placards which relate to figures or events from the Vietnam War. Sterling Ruby reimagines his own works in his Basion Theology series, ceramic sculptures that are filled with the remnants of his works deemed failures. Meanwhile, Sheila Hicks brings us back to textiles with Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column, a colorful array of fabrics which produce a cascading installation.


Ken Lum, Whitney Museum of American Art

Ken Lum, Midway Shopping Plaza, 2014, powder-coated aluminum and plexiglass.


A highlight of the exhibition is on Elm’s curated floor Michel Auder’s digital video installation, (Untitled) I Was Looking Back To See If You Were Looking Back At Me To See Me Looking Back At You. This 15:12 minute video uses three screens of voyeuristic views of people in their apartments and city skylines. At one moment a woman eats dinner alone while The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” plays, likely from someone else’s apartment. It’s intimate, somewhat perverse, but, much like the hybridity of the biennial itself, oddly fascinating to experience.

2014 Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, through May 25, 2014.

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by Kuoure Thomas
in Focus on the American East

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory