The Whitney Biennial 2017 – Absolute American

It was a bitter winter and that’s not talking about the weather. The year started with strong conflicting views and reactions that it should be an interesting time in American Art. For the seventy-eight installment at the Whitney, the sixty-three artists and collectives presented thought-provoking works in various medium to train their lens on race, economics and politics that is on a volatile cauldron – erupting like the constant lava flows of Hawaiian volcanoes. This is our America where questions and reactions level more to the surface. We are to confront, react and learn how what we see affects our deepest sensibilities to self than in relationship to our community. The climate is uncertain now in America but we have ART to be the defining force that galvanizes us together to reflect upon our humanity.

Installation view of Kaari Upson at the Whitney Biennial, 2017.
Raúl de Nieves’ spectacular work.

Here is our quick rundown of the Whitney Biennial 2017: Tommy Hartung we have seen him in a group show at On Stellar Rays. As always the arresting and biomorphic imagery is a slow burn standout. KAYA had a suspended raw installation that pulsated an urban vibe with a volatile current. Leigh Ledare produced witty images and her subjects colored it. Celeste Depuy Spencer’s painting added static verve to the everyday mundane. Raul de Nieves with the majesty of his sculpture amidst a stained glass background provided a reverent respite. Harold Mendez showed grace in his industrial material installation where its stark presence is a revelation. These are but a few to explore and peruse at the Whitney.

Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket,” based on a photograph of Emmett.

Now for the piece that has certainly polarized the visitors and sparked heated debate – Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket” which is a cubist take on the iconic 1955 Jet magazine photo of Emmett Till’s mutilated remains. The argument whether it’s a precedence to dangerous censorship in art should the popular uproar be heard or the moral implications of a sensitive subject co-opted for publicity and profit.

As previously stated, all the works from the artists and collectives included in this year’s Biennial are to be taken with a grain of salt. Art can only move us to a better reflection of our uncertain times to propel us to better understanding then perhaps move the compass needle to the right direction. As Americans that is our absolute power!


The 2017 Whitney Biennial

@ Whitney Museum of American Art

99 Ganseevort Street. NYC, NY 10014

On View: March 17 – June 11, 2017


article by Oscar A. Laluyan

photos and video by Jamie Martinez

Installation view of Jon Kessler at the Whitney Biennial 2017.
Hanging out with Ajay Kurian at the Whitney Biennial, 2017.
Installation view of Celeste Dupuy-Spencer at The Whitney Biennial, 2017.
Irena Haiduk’s “SERVERS FOR .YU” and “Frauenbank” a the Whitney Biennial, 2017.
Installation view of The Whitney Biennial, 2017.
VR by Jordan Wolfson at the Whitney Biennial, 2017.
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Oscar Laluyan

Oscar A. Laluyan is a critic, curator and an art writer for several online publications, . He has worked in a museum and at an art gallery founded by a former architect of Richard Meier's firm. His passion for contemporary art is reflected and directed to seeing the future.

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