The Whitney Museum NYC: Whitney Biennial 2010


The Whitney Biennial has become one of New York City’s great winter-into-spring art rituals, as every other year the venerable Upper East Side Whitney Art Museum opens its galleries to a new crop of young and emerging artists who, in the opinion of the curators, best exemplify the state of contemporary art in America–the materials and methods, the ideas, idiosyncrasies and obsessions–right now. This year’s Whitney Biennial, the 75th in the museum’s history, and simply titled 2010, is considerably smaller than its predecessor (which spilled over into the Park Avenue Armory), but it is also feels more tightly focused and, of course, is easier to take in than some of the more perhaps overstuffed Whitney Museum NYC exhibitions in the past.  


As always at the Whitney Biennial, the art itself within 2010 is a mixture of the good, the bad, and the huh? Of course, questioning the curator’s choices–"really? they included this?"–is as much a part of The Whitney Biennial NYC viewing as turning the corner into a different gallery, or entering a video viewing room, and getting hit by some astonishing new artist whose work gets you right in the gut. Both experiences are to be had here, and a lot more than once. 


There are 55 artists represented in this year’s Whitney Biennial, with work in photography, sculpture, painting, installation, mixed-medium, and video. We loved Pae White’s Smoke Knows, at top, a huge piece that fused high-definition digital photography onto cloth; Nina Berman’s wrenching Marine Wedding (two above), a series of photographs documenting the return of Sargent Ty Ziegel from Iraq, horribly disfigured from an IED, and his short-lived marriage to his high-school sweetheart; and Thomas Houseago’s large lurching Baby, all angular and textured and a little frightening and overwhelmingly innocent. There’s a lot more good stuff at The Whitney Museum NYC, too, such as: 


 Suzanne Frecon’s beautiful pair of abstract paintings, including embodiment of red (soforouge).   



Stephanie Sinclair’s harrowing Self-Immolation in Afghanistan series, about women in a Herat hospital who, desperate to end their long-term abuse by their husbands or families, destroyed their own bodies with self-inflicted burns.  



Kate Gilmore’s oddly riveting and totally exhausting Standing Here, a video of the artist smashing through a dry-wall "prison", shown in a room with the debris from her escape. 


Joesphine Meckseper’s Mall of America, a video shot in that palatial Minnesota tourist attraction, neatly juxtaposed with footage from some overly-heroic Flight Simulator movie showing in one of the Mall’s kiosks. 



Robert Williams’s clever, cartoony, whimsical watercolors, including Astrophysically Modified Real Estate.     

The Whitney Museum NYC: The Whitney Biennial 2010

The Whitney Biennial: 2010 is on exhibition now until May 30, 2010. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located on Madison Avenue between 75th and 74th Streets. The Whitney Museum NYC hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and until 9:00 p.m. on Fridays. Note that admission is "pay-what-you-wish" every Friday from 6:00 p.m. until closing. For more information and Whitney Biennial 2010 images, visit The Whitney Museum NYC website.   

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