The Whitney Biennial 2012—Caution: Dead End

America's big art show trades the real world for conceptual clutter

Other artists, though, prove exceptions to the rule of diminishing conceptual and aesthetic returns. Consider folks including Liz Deschenes (impeccably realized if dry photograms), Jutta Koether (handsome paintings as critiques of the medium), Vincent Fecteau (elaborately realized gypsum sculptures), Andrew Masullo (brightly balanced abstractions), LaToya Ruby Frazier (prints documenting the collapse of her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania), and Wu Tsang (an installation and film starring immigrant transsexuals).

An eerie exception: Wu Tsang goes to the tranny bar.
© Wu Tsang, courtesy the artist
An eerie exception: Wu Tsang goes to the tranny bar.

Details

Whitney Biennial 2012
The Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
212-570-3600, whitney.org
Through May 27

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Unlike the remaining artists in the show and all advertisers, their work does not rely on marginal differences to conceal basic similarities—they get by on a whole lot more than vibe. This is especially true of Tsang's installation: A genuinely eerie re-creation of a "green room" in a tranny bar, it includes revealing interviews with the performers. The sole Biennial artist to participate in the much better, more original, and thoroughly political New Museum triennial 80 blocks south, his authentic weirdness vibrates with real life—the kind capable of transforming lived nighttime ideas and experiences into substantial, relevant art for our times.

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10 comments
James Merrigan
James Merrigan

As someone that didn't get to see the Whitney Biennale due to geography my perception on the event where through the positive reports from Roberta Smith and Peter Schjeldah, who I read avidly. Christian Viveros-Faune take is in stark contrast to their opinion, but it is his opinion, which I enjoyed reading immensely and will be a return reader of his reviews in the future: keep them coming CVF!!!

Zombie
Zombie

I couldn't agree more. I did find Laura poitras' film very engaging though. As for the rest.. The Times gushed over it, and it was disappointing. Very.

MKL
MKL

One, of many, things this review misses about the show is that the work is notably and refreshingly non-commercial - thus in its own way commenting on the sorry state of our economy which is often the best thing that can happen to the artworld.

Ginger Snacks
Ginger Snacks

I think this is what you get when you have a guy who champions Lisa Yuskavage write on an interesting show. Feeling small excluded and out of touch he attacks. It's too bad that the Village Voice has a reactionary bully rather than someone perceptive to the possibilities of our moment. I'm also shocked a guy who loves James Siena would say anything bad about noodling. Claiming that things have been done 1000 times, what's worse an artist re-engaging with historical performance and duration, or hearing that same criticism slobbered out of a well trimmed goatee yet again. There is your cliche.

Lance Carson
Lance Carson

Despite his championing of the steadily devolving OWS, Christian Viveros-Faune is like the Rush Limbaugh of art critics. Eager to hastily slam something in order to draw attention to himself.

Lowell Mafer
Lowell Mafer

I would venture to say Bacher's Celestial handbook may have been inspired by the recent passing of her husband who was one of the world's foremost radio astronomers.

Poolhigher
Poolhigher

Who cares. The framed pages of a book did not work conceptually or visually amount to anything without An extensive rant of verbal interpretations to give it some dubious significance? Sorry, no explanation needed! Bad!

 
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