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Exhibition Review: 2014 Whitney Biennial

Exhibition Review: 2014 Whitney Biennial
by IDSVA Alumna Heather Dunn

As a New Yorker, I view attending certain art shows as a compulsory activity. As one of my mentors once told me, “Why struggle so much to live in this god-forsaken expensive city if you don’t take the time to go the museums and galleries?” Going to see the Whitney Biennial definitely fits the bill. It is an exhibition I have religiously seen for more than twenty-five years, and it is a show that I also always leave with mixed reviews. The 2014 Whitney Biennial was no exception. It can be described as a phenomenon of fusion of both the curators, Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner, and the embodiment of a historical, postmodern view of pluralism. The artwork ranged from the feminist Abstract Expressionism of Louise Fishman, to an AIDS tribute to Tony Greene, from Matt Hanner’s preservation of the sounds of silence after 9/11, to the salvation of the art critic and artist Gregory Battcock’s life by Joseph Grigely. Themes and works stretched across time folding more than fifty years of work in a “contemporary” exhibition that perhaps, tried too hard to pay tribute to the last up town biennial. The show seemed fragmented, possibly because fragmentation was a reoccurring theme of much of the art, most literally demonstrated in many of the linguistic and text-based works of Etel Adnan, Ken Lum, and others. However, some works did stand out, such as Karl Haendel’s exquisite pencil drawings, Ken Okiishi’s video/paintings, Miljohn Ruperto’s duck/rabbit animation, and Michel Auder’s voyeuristic video that demonstrated the isolation of the technological world we inhabit.