Welcome to the Mixed-Up, Dialed-Down 2010 Whitney Biennial

Bye-bye bling! The new realists win out this year

"We're over America, and America is over us," it intones mournfully. The Bruce's narrative tableau proceeds from there to disgorge a visual-aural elegy for American culture. What it offers—along with the work of select other artists in the exhibition—is nothing less than an alternative model for art making today: an approach that is creatively unfettered and responsive to the world beyond its navel, the movement of markets and art's often specious rules. The resemblance to real modernism is uncanny.

Art from the actual world: Nina Berman's Ty With Gun, 2008
Courtesy Nina Berman
Art from the actual world: Nina Berman's Ty With Gun, 2008

Consider this when judging the exhibition: Change most often comes in the manner of a faucet drip, not a sledgehammer. The new realists at the 2010 Whitney Biennial may not yet be tearing down the Berlin Wall of postmodern influence in contemporary art, but it is a sound bitchslap of a beginning.

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