State of the Art: Whitney Biennial Surveys Currents in the Contemporary World

NEW YORK—This year’s Whitney Biennial surveys of the state of contemporary art in America through the work of 51 artists. In addition to paintings, photography, sculpture and installations, the show includes video, film screenings, music and performance art. One artist, Los Angeles-based Dawn Kasper, has installed the entire contents of her studio on the third floor of the museum, where she is working during the biennial. Although Kasper was away from her studio when Arts Observer visited, the diversity of work presented throughout the museum makes it feel as if all the galleries are a series of studios spaces, where each artist is presenting experimental, and sometimes very personal work. Some you may like, some you may not care for or understand. But the backstory or explanation for almost every artist’s contribution/project is intriguing.

All photos by Arts Observer

Above, Clockwise from top left, “Wrapped in Gramps’ Blanket,” “In Grandma Ruby’s Velour Bottoms,” “Covered in Gramp’s Blanket,” and “In Gramp’s Pajamas,” 2010 (all gelatin silver prints from The Homebody Series) by Latoya Ruby Frazier, whose work reflects her family history and the struggles of Braddock, Pa., her hometown. Top of page, “Pipe Organ,” 2009-11 (tin, paint, speakers, wire and Yamaha organ) by Lutz Bacher.

Two paintings, both “Untitled,” 2011 (oil, synthetic polymer, tempera and varnish, on fabric and silk) installed against “Untitled,” 2012 (handwoven panels) by Kai Althoff.

Detail of “Untitled,” 1967 (oil on canvas) by Forrest Bess (1911-1977). From the exhibition description: “Bess was a painter/fisherman who exhibited his work in New York yet lived in poverty and isolation off the Gulf Coast of Texas. Bess developed elaborate theories about the uniting of the male and the female within his own body, and performed operations on his own genitals that turned him into a pseudo-hermaphrodite. In his lifetime, Bess wanted to exhibit his medical theories alongside his paintings, but his longtime dealer, Betty Parsons, always politely declined. For the Biennial, sculptor Robert Gober, working from Bess’s letters, curates a room of paintings and archival materials that realizes Bess’s wish.”

“Concern, Crush, Desire,” 2011 (cotton applique on velvet, brass doorknobs and door stoppers) by Nick Mauss.

From left, “Seasons 1” and “Seasons 2,” (both 2011, synthetic polymer and oil on canvas mounted on glass) by Jutta Koether.

“Salome Painting: Icy Balled,” 2012 (oil on canvas) by Richard Hawkins.

“Untitled,” 2011 (45 mixed-media monotypes) by Nicole Eisenman.

“Breakup,” 2011 (oil and mixed-media on canvas) by Nicole Eisenman.

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