This week is a busy one for art writers with Art Fairs abound and the Whitney Biennial (That greatest of art world punching bags) opening to Press, VIPs and eventually regular people. Since I am not on the beat, but rather part of the machine, I can only weigh in briefly. This week I am going to give you an easy recap of what has been said about the Biennial so far and just a few cursory remarks about the art fairs.
Here you will find the voluble, venerable and plenty in-between. I will do a Whitney Biennial issue soon.
Andrew Russeth at Gallerist: “This year’s biennial is not a disaster, but neither is it anything close to a success. It is deeply dissatisfying—a wunderkammer-like, all-over-the-place show that offers some remarkable pleasures and far too many enervating frustrations. It pulls you in not three, but dozens of different directions, plenty of which are dead ends. The quality of the art is dramatically uneven, the tone uncertain.”
Jerry Saltz at NYMag “Much of the rest of the show (after Michelle Grabner’s floor) is a nebulous tasting-menu mess that exudes an inert elegiac air.
Jillian Steinhauer at Hyperallergic “The 2014 Whitney Biennial has many things: oversized ceramics, big abstract and figurative paintings, experimental jazz, videos of people having sex, and bead curtains. What it doesn’t have all that much of is politics. “The 2014 Whitney Biennial has many things: oversized ceramics, big abstract and figurative paintings, experimental jazz, videos of people having sex, and bead curtains. What it doesn’t have all that much of is politics.“
Holland Cotter at NYTimes “The result is a large, three-tiered cake of a show, mostly vanilla, but laced with threads of darker, sharper flavor, and with a lot of frosting on top.”
ADAA Art Show and The Armory Show
As far as the fairs, I can say the ADAA Art Show is doing great job of being a stodgy old museum quality show while taking a few small chances. There is a mostly understated feel to this fair that allows you to truly enjoy both the bluest of chip and relatively unknown. Though I wish I had more time, My eye focused in on the intimate solo booths like James Castle at Peter Freeman, Tonico Lemos Auad at CRG Gallery, Jack Whitten at Alexander Gray Associates and Sol LeWitt (can’t help myself) at Rhona Hoffman. Monochromes came in black 50 year old works on paper Ad Reinhardt and white (or possible linen) 2014 Jacob Kassay. Still the lack of massive and shiny art sets it apart from the Armory show.
Though I have only seen the Armory show during installation hours, it was clearly ready to be full of showiest, shiniest and biggest. I loved some things and cannot wait to see some of them again. The only place where my enjoyment and the showiness intersected (the saddest Venn Diagram I could imagine) is at Jack Shainman’s booth. As much as I disliked how packed to the rafters it was, I loved nearly everything he had to show. Nick Cave soundsuits continue to carry the allure that so few showy shiny contemporary art does. Elena Del Rivero at Elvira Gonzalez, David Diao at Postmasters booth, everything at Sao Paolo’s Nara Roesler left me wanting more time and certainly more money.
Art fairs are forever this infuriating mix of great and awful, smashed together, shaken and stirred. If you can leave with a better sense of your taste and what you’re willing to allow into your aesthetic vision of the world, it’s probably worth more than the VIP tote bag.
-Jeff Bergman March, 2014