Friday, March 07, 2008

Whitney Biennial

The Whitney Biennial is widely celebrated as the Superbowl of the American art world. Only the best of the best are even considered for inclusion, or so they say, and of those, only the most elite of the elite get in. The current Biennial just opened yesterday and I took a look at the website a few minutes ago.

Pardon me if I'm not impressed. As with any group of "the elite of the elite", this exhibition seems to have little or no relation to reality. I saw a few artists whose work I might look at for a few minutes, but not one piece made me say "Wow". Actually, I'd be hard pressed to even come up with a "hmmm". I got the impression that the artists were all striving to outdo each other in making "ART" that was geared towards a small circle of those who were clued-in. And if you're at all baffled by any of it, you'd better not say anything, or else you'll be labeled a RUBE and banished forever from art society.

Odd Nerdrum, who as a Norwegian isn't eligible for the Whitney, labels his works "kitsch" ... by which he means that he wants his works to be looked at, understood, and appreciated by everyday people and not just the art establishment. I find that I agree with that idea more and more.

Years ago, when I was taking continuing-ed courses at Maryland Institute College of Art, I went to one of their big student exhibits. It was in the gallery located in what had been a train station, and the adjacent tracks are still in use. Anyway, I walked through the exhibit and didn't see anything that appealed to me. It was all arty, not real. Finally I left and headed off to class. Next to the art building was a diesel locomotive, idling away and almost invisible in the darkness. Its rumble echoed off the stone walls and was eerie, threatening, and reassuring all at the same time. It was real in a sense that nothing in the gallery was, it had a conceptual power that nothing in there had, and to me it was art.

What was true then is true today. Give me a common diesel locomotive over anything in the Whitney.

No comments: