Reality Leaves a Fingerprint on the Biennial
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By CAROL VOGEL
Published: December 10, 2009
The 2010 edition of the Whitney Biennial — that giant survey of American art on the Upper East Side of Manhattan — will not only try to chronicle current goings-on in contemporary art, but it will also reflect the world at large. Thus, in these recessionary times, the show will be smaller than it has been in recent years, with just 55 artists, down from 81 in 2008 and 100 in 2006. It will also be contained in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s home, the Marcel Breuer building, rather than spilling over into a second location, as the 2008 Biennial did when it occupied much of the Park Avenue Armory or into Central Park as other Biennials have.
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“The Fall, 2010,” by Aurel Schmidt, will be part of the Whitney Biennial, 2010. More Photos »
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The Artists (December 10, 2009)
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“Battle Cry” (2008) by Tam Tran will be at the Biennial. More Photos >
Next year’s event, which runs from Feb. 25 through May 30, is being organized by Francesco Bonami, 54, the Italian-born curator who helped put together the Rudolph Stingel retrospective at the Whitney in 2007, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, 29, a senior curatorial assistant at the museum who helped with the Biennials in 2004 and 2006.
On view will be a mix of well-known and new artists ranging in age from a 23-year-old photographer, Tam Tran, to the 75-year-old conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady.
Among the recognizable names will be the painter and sculptor George Condo, the Polish-born artist Piotr Uklanski and the American artist Charles Ray, whose outdoor sculpture of a boy holding a frog became an instant landmark in Venice when it was unveiled last June along the Grand Canal.
One of the Biennial’s pleasures is discovering emerging artists, and this time there will be plenty of them, including Aurel Schmidt, a draftswoman; Jesse Aron Green, a video artist; and Leslie Vance, a painter. In the lobby gallery Martin Kersels, from Los Angeles, is creating a sculptural installation that resembles oversized furniture but that will also function as a stage for programs involving artists, writers, musicians, choreographers and D.J.’s.
In a change from past years, the curators have limited each artist to one work or series, so that the Biennial will feel more like a snapshot of the state of art rather than a succession of mini-retrospectives.
And unlike the one in 2006, this Biennial won’t have a theme. Mr. Bonami said he didn’t want one: “The theme is the year — 2010 — which is the title.”
But trends inevitably emerge.
“There’s less noise around,” Mr. Bonami said, explaining that he had noticed that young artists were thinking smaller. “The new generation seems less obsessed with big. They have more human-scale attitudes.”
Both curators also said that modernism had returned as a source of inspiration. “We’re at a particular moment now where there have been drastic changes across the country, so many younger artists have been looking back to history for guidance,” Mr. Carrion-Murayari said, adding that they were using “ abstraction as a positive means of expression and are taking historical precedents and trying to make them new and fresh.”
Politics inevitably seep into some of the work. While both curators said there wouldn’t be as many political statements as in past Biennials, some artists have, Mr. Bonami said, “used their own personal experiences to explore political issues.”
The curators are planning to organize the space in a new way. “We’ve divided the museum in layers like the slice of a cake,” Mr. Bonami said.
While the fifth floor will still feature selections from the Whitney’s permanent collection, it is being rehung with work from previous Biennials. Still on view will be many of the Whitney’s old favorites, like Edward Hopper and Milton Avery paintings. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that some of these iconic works first appeared in Biennials,” Mr. Carrion-Murayari said.
And for the first time film and video will be, for the most part, separated from other mediums, occupying the entire third floor. “We want each floor to have a different mood,” said Mr. Bonami.
Not all the curators’ plans are final. They hope to mount a project in the meatpacking district, on the site of the Whitney’s intended second home. The idea is to have the architect Jeffrey Inaba design a temporary pavilion that could be used for all sorts of events.
“It would be a signifier for the new Whitney and for things to come,” Mr. Bonami said. “Biennials are supposed to be a bridge to the future.”
THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL
Feb. 25-May 30
This survey of the latest in contemporary American art can always be counted on to stir up debate, both inside and outside the art world. Past shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York have included plumbing-store owner George Holliday’s 1993 video of the Rodney King beating and Hans Haacke’s 2000 installation that made headlines when it was interpreted as comparing then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to a Nazi.
[ye_art] Tam Tran
Feb. 25 marks the opening of the Whitney’s 75th Biennial, which curators say will include a few artists who deal with politics, although generally on a personal level. Nina Berman’s photographs show a disfigured Iraq veteran getting back to his daily life.
This year’s Biennial is less crowded: It features 55 artists, down from 82 in 2008. Curator Gary Carrion-Murayari says the museum wanted to put together a more focused show this year. The cost of the Biennial, he says, will be roughly the same as past years.
The crop of artists ranges from 23-year-old Tam Tran, a photographer from Memphis (right, “Battle Cry,” 2008), to 76-year-old Lorraine O’Grady, a conceptual and performance artist who has worked as an intelligence analyst for the government and a rock music writer. This year marks the first time in the Biennial’s history that female artists outnumber men (Pae White’s “Smoke Knows,” 2009, above).
New this year will be a 75th anniversary highlights show that opens Jan. 16 and closes in November called “Collecting Biennials,” focusing on a mix of works by artists from past shows. Included will be artists who never hit it big as well as blockbuster names like Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.
The percentage of U.S. adults who attended an art museum or arts performance for the 12 months ended May 2008, compared with 40% in 2002.
Source: National Endowment for the Arts
Peformance art will have a prominent place in the exhibit. Artist Martin Kersels plans to install a large stage in the museum lobby where writers, dancers and performance artists can put on shows throughout the Biennial’s run. Another artist, Aki Sasamoto, will perform in the galleries alongside her sculptures that incorporate everyday objects, and sound recordings will play when she’s not there live. Her work “is always very, very strange,” Mr. Carrion-Murayari says.
Mr. Carrion-Murayari says painting will also have a strong presence this year with artists like Suzan Frecon, a painter whose works are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Julia Fish, who has works in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Ms. Frecon is known for her large-scale oil paintings of simple geometric designs.
A sign of the modest times: there will be fewer splashy, multi-channel video installations, and most of the video art will be displayed on a single floor, not spread throughout. “You’ll really enter a different psychological space when you move onto that floor,” says Mr. Carrion-Murayari. “It’s a little bit of an experiment.”
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Yalies featured in MoMA photo exhibit
By Lucas Zwirner
Published Tuesday, January 12, 2010
NEW YORK — At a time when photographs are as common as the cell phones that can take them, some young photographers are choosing to construct their own subject matter and develop different methods to ensure the uniqueness of their images.
“New Photography 2009,” curated by Eva Respini and currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, shows the work of six photographers, three of them Yalies. The artists — Walead Beshty ART ’02, Daniel Gordon ART ’06, Leslie Hewitt ART ’04, Carter Mull, Sterling Ruby and Sara VanDerBeek — all try to go beyond more conventional methods of photographic composition in their work.
“These six artists have different working methods and pictorial modes … but their pictures all begin in the studio or dark room,” the introduction to the show says. The six artists have all either photographed objects they created in the studio or dramatically altered their photographs in the dark room. This year’s “New Photography” exhibit maps a move away from point-and-shoot photographs that focus on subject matter toward an approach rooted in multiple media, with an emphasis on different methods.
Hewitt’s photographs are sculptural. At a glance, they look like upside down pictures of still-lifes. But one thing stands out: each of her photographs has a photograph in it. Hewitt first created photographic compositions that, seen in a studio would look very much like sculptures, and then photographed them.
These photographs within each photograph draw attention to her medium. Though Hewitt is taking pictures of what appear to be sculptures, she only allows the viewer to see the photograph and never the sculpture itself.
Hewitt’s upside down photographs also allow her to emphasize that she is not documenting reality but something she has created. Because photography today is so easily accessible, photographs seem to be losing their personal qualifications — anyone can take a picture of anything that exists. Hewitt has managed to find a response that is acutely personal while remaining image-based in its presentation.
Beshty, another Eli artist featured in the exhibition, has found an entirely different way to make his photographs personal. His works are technically photograms, photographic images made in a darkroom without a camera. Beshty sets the rules for how he will make his photograms: his project involves going into the darkroom with his materials but without a specific end product in mind. During the two hours he spends in the dark room developing his images, he becomes simply a catalyst to the development, working with color and material to produce abstract images that he cannot see in the dark. The final images reflect the rules he has established for creation, not the way he plays. Unlike Hewitt, Beshty creates an idea for what he wants but then allows himself to become a machine-like part in the physical process of creating.
Like Hewitt, though, Beshty does want to create something very specific, something that no one else could create without adopting his set of rules. His images can be reproduced once they have been printed, but the original process is so unique that he could probably never make the same image twice. Like Hewitt’s sculptures, Beshty’s rules make his work personal even though he does not specifically choose how each piece will turn out.
The work of Beshty and Hewitt represents an interesting curatorial decision that links all photographers featured in “New Photography 2009.” Curator Respini has chosen to use ‘new’ to refer to changing method. This is not necessarily a show of the best new photographers — there are still many artists taking beautiful pictures in a more classical way — but Respini’s choice exposes how photography may need to develop in order to remain relevant as an art form in an image-saturated world.
American Museum of Natural History
LocationCentral Park West (btwn 77th and 81st sts.)CityNew YorkPhone212/769-5100 for information; 212/769-5200 for tickets (tickets can also be ordered online for an additional $4 charge)Web Sitewww.amnh.orgPriceSuggested admission $14 adults, $11 seniors and students, $8 children 2-12; Space Show and museum admission $22 adults, $17 seniors and students, $13 children under 12. Additional charges for IMAX movies and some special exhibitions
(4 stars, 1 vote)
This is one of the hottest museum tickets in town, thanks to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, whose four-story-tall planetarium sphere hosts the show, Cosmic Collisions, narrated by Robert Redford, about the violent beginnings of the universe. Prepare to be blown away by this astounding, literally earth-shaking short film.
Buy your tickets in advance for the Space Show in order to guarantee admission (they’re available online); I also recommend buying tickets in advance for a specific IMAX film or special exhibition, such as the Butterfly Conservatory, especially during peak seasons (summer, autumn, holiday time) and for weekend visits; otherwise, you might miss out.
Other must-sees include the Big Bang Theater, which re-creates the theoretical birth of the universe; the main Hall of the Universe, with its very own 16-ton meteorite; and the terrific Hall of Planet Earth, which focuses on the geologic processes of our home planet (great volcano display!). All in all, you’ll need a minimum of 2 hours to fully explore the Rose Center. The rest of the 4-square-block museum is nothing to sneeze at, either. Founded in 1869, it houses the world’s greatest natural-science collection in a group of buildings made of towers and turrets, pink granite, and red brick. The diversity of the holdings is astounding: some 36 million specimens, ranging from microscopic organisms to the world’s largest cut gem, the Brazilian Princess Topaz (21,005 carats). Rose Center aside, it would take you all day to see the entire museum, and then you still wouldn’t get to everything. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can see the best of the best on free highlights tours offered daily every hour at 15 minutes after the hour from 10:15am to 3:15pm. Free daily spotlight tours, thematic tours that change monthly, are also offered; stop by an information desk for the day’s schedule. Audio Expeditions, high-tech audio tours that allow you to access narration in the order you choose, are also available to help you make sense of it all.
If you only see one exhibit, see the dinosaurs, which take up the fourth floor.
The Hall of Biodiversity is an impressive multimedia exhibit, but its doom-and-gloom story about the future of rainforests and other natural habitats might be too much for the little ones. Kids 5 and up should head to the Discovery Room, with lots of hands-on exhibits and experiments. (Parents, be prepared: There seems to be a gift shop overflowing with stuffed animals at every turn.) The Spitzer Hall of Human Origins in the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall traces the evolution of man and even offers children’s workshops where kids can compare skull casts of early humans.
The museum excels at special exhibitions, so check to see what will be on while you’re in town in case any advance planning is required. The magical Butterfly Conservatory, a walk-in enclosure housing nearly 500 free-flying tropical butterflies, has developed into a can’t-miss fixture from October through May; check to see if it’s in the house while you’re in town.
* New York, Penn Station 9.30 am – Philadelphia 30th St Station 10.48 am (34$)
* New York, Penn Station 8.10 am – 9,35 am – Baltimore Penn Station 10.40 am – 12.15 pm (48$)
* New York, Penn Station 7.05 am – 8.10 am – Washington Union Station 10.25 am – 11.25 am (72$)
* Washington Union Station 6.10 pm – New York Penn station 9.25 pm (49$)
An exhibition of more than 100 photographs drawn from the historic LOOK magazine archive will open at the Museum of the City of New York on November 18, 2009. The exhibition, Only in New York, accompanies the first-ever book to make publicly available and to interpret these images, some 200,000 of which were donated to the Museum of the City of New York in the 1950s by Cowles Magazines. Only in New York will document the city as it became a great global capital in the years following World War II while remaining a city of diverse neighborhoods. The exhibition is organized by Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum, and Thomas H. Mellins, an independent curator, both of whom also wrote and edited the book; the book, which includes more than 200 photographs, also features a foreword by Susan Henshaw Jones, the Museum’s Ronay Menschel Director. It is co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Monacelli Press (a division of Random House).
LOOK magazine, founded in 1937 and located in New York, brought a lively editorial slant and an entertaining photojournalistic style into some eight million American homes during television’s earliest years and decades before today’s “big media” information age. Its publisher, Gardner (Mike) Cowles, sought to meet “the tremendous unfilled demand for extraordinary news and feature pictures.” The magazine’s broad editorial coverage included international news as well as national features. However, with New York City just outside their doors, the editors, writers, and photographers found it not only interesting but efficient and inexpensive to develop stories that took place in Manhattan and the surrounding four boroughs. Only in New York will feature photographs that LOOK published, and perhaps more importantly, photographs that remained unpublished. Most of the images depict the transformation of the city from 1945 to the early 1960s, revealing an engaging portrait of New York as it achieved star quality on the world’s stage.
Only in New York includes celebrities: Marlon Brando, the year after he shot to stardom in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire; Lisa Fonssagrives, the world’s first “supermodel;” Rocky Graziano, the boxer, and Salvador Dalí, the surrealist artist; Charles James, the legendary fashion designer; and more. Stanley Kubrick, who became one of Hollywood’s great directors, sold his first image to LOOK when he was 17 years of age; his photographs of boxer Walter Cartier, believed to have been the impetus for his later film, The Day of the Fight (1951), are featured in Only in New York. The city’s iconic places will be spotlighted as well: Times Square; Harlem in 1949, as it grew from a center of culture during its Renaissance to a bastion of political clout in 1948; Park Avenue and Spanish Harlem; and many more.
And the people of the city, from titans of industry to flame eaters, athletes to animal trainers; society matrons to showgirls; unsung heroes to Hollywood legends, will also be on view in Only in New York. Collaborating with LOOK’s editors, art directors, and photographers, New Yorkers strutted, cavorted, and preened their way across the magazine’s pages. Celebrated in the pages of LOOK, they were portrayed and perceived as winners, yet some of the photographs reveal the darker side of ambition and the cost of failure.
Demonstrating how these memorable photographs appeared on LOOK’s artfully composed pages, the exhibition will include a display of vintage magazines, allowing visitors to see how LOOK’s art directors married image and text to create lively photojournalism. LOOK magazine discontinued publication in 1971.
The exhibition and new book build on the success of the Museum’s 2007 exhibition-Willing To Be Lucky: Ambitious New Yorkers in the Pages of LOOK Magazine-which documented the city’s allure for those who sought fame, fortune, and romance. Only in New York will be available at the Museum’s Shop and at bookstores; it will cost $40.00.
The exhibition design is by Pure + Applied.
The Museum of the City of New York presents and interprets the past, present, and future of New York City and celebrates its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum’s exhibitions, public programs, and publications on New York City’s political and social history, including Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson, Robert Moses and the Modern City: Remaking the Metropolis, New York Comes Back: Mayor Ed Koch and the City, to name but a few-have garnered praise from the press and public alike.