In the days when you have to worry if your microwave is a spy camera or if POTUS really wanders the halls of the White House mumbling in a bathrobe, it’s a pleasure to know that this week kicks off the Whitney Biennial. It’s the first Biennial to happen at the sparkling new location on 99 Gansevoort St. in downtown New York City, opening this Friday, March 17. The roster of artists is staggering, with names you know, some you will come to know, and some likely to drift back into well-earned obscurity. But this is the Whitney’s 78th annual and biennial exhibit and some say they might be starting to get the hang of it.
This Biennial, and everything else really, comes at a time of cultural upheaval and tensions, which is generally considered the best possible catalyst for art. But can the establishment step out of its own way enough to represent the true struggles of the culture? Is the big machine agile enough to shift its focus from the past to the present (and the future) in a way that connects with real people? After Friday, we should have an answer but for now it actually looks promising.
This years curators, Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, with help from Aily Nash for film, have brought together 63 artists from the fields of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, activism, performance, music, and video game design. But perhaps most refreshing thing is that they say the main themes are, “The formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society,” according the the Whitney website. So now it’s official. Our society is turbulent. This is not news to Potato Mike, but we’re glad to see a responsive art culture that reflects these turbulent and exceptional times. We know the banned-from-The-Whitney-for-life Base 12 crew won’t be there, but the Whitney is forgiven. Nonetheless, from the website, the line-up looks like there will be some works that are truly representative of the world we live in.
After all, the Whitney is about America and American art. As in the United States of. Meaning it has a very specific perspective–and currently, that perspective is pretty much a dumpster fire. While our country enters into a phase that is either the onset of collective senility before the last throes of a cultural death knell, or just a great reason to deeply re-evaluate what the hell we’re doing, often we look to art for hope, inspiration, solutions and questions. Art–in its very function of revealing truth and representing what we often do not yet have the tools to describe–is essential in such times. Music in the violent ‘60’s, the art of the depression era– creatives have often been the most influential transcenders of a broken system. So, while PotatoMike squirrels away canned goods, salted meats and distilled water in the basement, we simultaneously hope with the persistence of survival, that we can be delivered from this seeming slip back into the dark ages. Please guys, paint your hearts out. We might just need you to save us.
Potato Mike looks forward to checking out this year’s survey of art in the US and we put great hope in how it can contribute to the cultural conversation. Check back in for our review next week. In the meantime, just know that while the world seems to be wondering if having different ideas should be outlawed, we at PotatoMike love you unconditionally.