My Sixth Sense

Several painters stand out. John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage look very good here. Both no-brainer picks (as are Gober and Sze), either could have been in the last Biennial, so their inclusion here is happy but not surprising. Yuskavage especially ups the ante of her surfaces, relinquishing some of their polish (references to Penthousepinups in one work titled Day, however, could spell trouble). Richard Tuttle's 12 paintings on wood are a burst of fresh air, while Trenton Doyle Hancock, 26, looks promising because of a single drawing with two cutout heads pasted to the surface.

You can forget photography, because the curators almost did. Of the few that are included, John Coplans looks good in four smallish pictures, but my favorite is Chris Verene, with pictures of middle-aged men who, under the guise of "camera clubs," photograph seminaked younger women. It's a voyeuristic view of voyeurism in which all parties look pathetic, playing out private fantasies and sexual stereotypes.

The video installations save this show. Their removal would trigger the equivalent of a fatal hemorrhage. Paul Pfeiffer, 34, is already one of those artists you can't wait to see again. He looked good in P.S.1's "Greater New York," and looks great here. Pfeiffer contributes the most riveting image on view: the tiny, altered, silent video projection (fittingly titled after a Francis Bacon crucifixion) of basketball player Larry Johnson, as he is apparently wailing like a wounded animal, striding back and forth on an empty court, lights flashing all around him.

The details have details in Sarah Sze’s Untitled (2000) installation at the Whitney.
photo: Robin Holland
The details have details in Sarah Sze’s Untitled (2000) installation at the Whitney.

Details

Whitney Biennial 2000
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
Through June 4

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Doug Aitken, another no-brainer selection, who was in the last Biennial, and who won the International Prize at Venice last summer for the same piece on view here, provides one of this show's high points. Electric Earth, a walk-in eight-screen video projection, features a young black man from New Jersey who moves through deserted urban L.A., imitating the wavelengths of objects around him. After twitching his hand to the sound of a dollar bill being rejected by a soft drink machine, he says, "This is the only nowI get." Also looking impressive in this arena are Dara Friedman, Carl Pope, and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle.

This show makes you wonder what would have happened had ex-Whitney curator Thelma Goldin finished the job she started as the original curator of this Biennial. We'll never know. As it is, the show is a triumph of mediocrity. Maybe the exhibition's catalog cover, a scene from Aitken's Electric Earth, is a metaphor for the entire proceedings. An empty shopping cart stands in a vacant parking lot. Sometimes you go into a supermarket looking for nourishment and still come out wanting.

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