A Preview of the 2014 Whitney Biennial
||The Whitney Biennial is entering new territory: cult author David Foster Wallace,
who died in 2008, is the biggest star of what is probably the most
important museum show of contemporary American art. But there are
plenty of surprises in store. Under the aegis of Whitney curators Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders,
three guest curators will add their outsiders’ views to make the
Biennial even more exciting and diverse than before. For a number of
years, Stuart Comer was in charge of film at the Tate Modern; since September he is MoMA’s Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art. Anthony Elms is Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and artist Michelle Grabner teaches at the school of the Art Institute in Chicago. Each of the curators will be in charge of a floor of the Whitney Museum,
with an independent exhibition respectively. All three share a love of
interdisciplinary approaches and collective actions, but with 107
participants from all around the US, the 77th Biennial is guaranteed to
be anything but a homogenous affair.
A literary influence can be clearly discerned in 2014: in addition to the author Wallace, young critics and writers like Travis Jeppesen and seasoned poets like Susan Howe
play a part in the Biennial, as well as artists and filmmakers who
write or experiment with language and sound. Furthermore, magazines
like Semiotext(e) have been invited to participate for the first time.
of the show’s points of focus is on Chicago’s vital art scene, which
curators Elms and Grabner have close ties to. The spectrum here ranges
from young theoreticians and artists like Stephen Lacy, who runs the Academy Records project space, to the 1956-born Joseph Grigely.
In his mixed media assemblages and installations, Grigely, who is deaf,
examines the possibilities of language and human relationships.
those for whom the last Biennial had too little painting on offer also
have reason to look forward to the show. The list of artists includes
well-known painters such as Laura Owens, Bjarne Melgaard, and Charline von Heyl, who has just been nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize and, like Owens, has numerous works in the Deutsche Bank Collection. Another focus is on the resurgence in abstract painting, represented in the Biennial by Jacqueline Humphries and Philip Vanderhyden.
important trend on the art scene is also palpable in New York: the
(re)discovery of older women artists who have only really been given
their due posthumously or towards the end of their careers. At the
Whitney it’s the minimal artist Channa Horwitz as well as two artists of the “Pictures Generation,” Sarah Charlesworth and Gretchen Bender.
2014 Whitney Biennial promises a round of surprises and a spirit of
optimism. At the same time, however, it marks a farewell, because it’s
the last time the show will take place in the iconic Breuer building on Madison Avenue. The 78th Biennial will open in the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District, designed by Renzo Piano—with even more room for experimentation.
2014 Whitney Biennial
March 7 – May 25, 2014
Whitney Museum, New York