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.
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.
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