Magazine article Artforum International

Whole in Six

Magazine article Artforum International

Whole in Six

Article excerpt

Reviewing the Whitney Biennial of American Art has gotten to be something like playing a round of golf just to get rid of pent-up aggression. Let's see, which club will we whack the vulnerable little ball with this year? If the play is from the middle of the art-market fairway, as it was in Klaus Kertess's 1995 show, we could reach for the "Chic Gallery Old Boys' Network" wood and drive that sucker right through Matthew Marks's plate glass window. If we're in the politically correct rough (on the left, of course), as we were in 1993, we could grab the "Politics Make For Ugly Art" iron and enjoy digging a nice divot in the turf of the putatively marginalized "Other." And if the allegedly national (but in fact LA and NYC heavy) biennial of two years back seems about as sea-to-shining-sea as a New York City subway token, we might take a cut with our "New York Parochialism" wedge and get the air of neglected regionalists under the ball. The Whitney - credit due here for intention, if not astuteness - has tried in each successive biennial to wrest last time's lucky club out of the critic's hand.

In the early '90s, when David Ross (now running the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) was still new on the Whitney job, he bade curators Elizabeth Sussman and Thelma Golden veer radically away from the heavily gallery-influenced biennials of the '80s. After the critical drubbing their biennial took for being so stridently PC (the contentiousness dependably surrounding each biennial kept attendance up), the museum went for more apolitical grunge in '95. And the last biennial in '97 - despite token representation of Mexico (expanding, as in '95, the "American" charter written into the museum's name, you see) and the inclusion of such frequent-flyer artists as Francesco Clemente - had a decidedly bicoastal flavor.

Now, under new director Maxwell Anderson (who is thought to personally favor more conservative art, e.g., Edward Hopper and Arthur Dove - and more radical technology, e.g., Intel, etc.), the upcoming biennial (after a three-year interval it'll appear next year, in 2000, to kick off the millennium) is trying to get off the island of Manhattan. Instead of one in-house curator, the Whitney has appointed six outside agents, each from a different corner of this vast land of ours, to cobble together the new exhibition. Truth be told, necessity may have been the midwife of invention. …

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