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Reviews of the 2008 California Biennial

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"Too Much Good Stuff"
Reviews of the 2008 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA)


Until March 15th 2009, the 2008 California Biennial will be on view at the OCMA and in 24 different satellite sites throughout the vast state of California. Sponsored by Deutsche Bank and featuring both lesser known and famous Californian artists, the deliberately regional biennial is a critical and thought-provoking homage to the culture and politics of the Golden State. The reactions in the Californian press were overwhelmingly positive.




Orange County's main regional newspaper, the Orange County Weekly, went as far as comparing a visit to the the 2008 California Biennial with being a child on Christmas morning. The art critic Greg Stacy's verdict: "The place is packed with art, making the previous OCMA biennials look like those sad little deals in which some guy sets up a lawn chair in the parking lot of a gas station and tries to sell framed prints of crashing waves and baskets of kittens." The reviewer especially appreciated the biennial's emphasis on political art, which he found "potent," "startling," and "effective."

Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Times' art critic, was not completely convinced by the show. Although he saw many fascinating installations, video works, and paintings at the OCMA-he was especially fond of Daniel J. Martinez' animatronic sculpture Ishmael- Knight's impression of the 24 off-site presentations in Tijuana, San Francisco, and L.A. remained ambivalent: "The effort fits the show's loose theme of art's social and political engagements. In effect, though, it dilutes rather than enhances the biennial experience."

On the other hand, The Orange County Register, the region's daily newspaper, found the extended scope of the 2008 California Biennial very appealing. This was one reason why the work of the biennial's "bright young curator" Lauri Firstenberg amazed art critic Richard Yang, who felt that she'd brought "fresh perspectives to the exhibition."

The upscale Californian arts magazine art ltd. was also impressed by the "ambitious, sprawling, defiantly unthemed, and intergenerational" biennial. For the magazine's editor George Melrod, Lauri Firstenberg's work came off as highly innovative. Melrod was amazed by her "thoughtful yet expansive curatorial approach," which seemed "more intimate and experimental than set forth by most museums"-a sentiment that is mirrored by most press reactions to the remarkable biennial. Or, as the Orange County Weekly's Greg Stacy proclaimed, "Too Much Good Stuff!"






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