BREAKING BOUNDARIES; Free-Standing Works at the Corcoran Emphasize Concepts over the Physical for '47Th Biennial: Fantasy Underfoot'.(ARTS)(ART)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

BREAKING BOUNDARIES; Free-Standing Works at the Corcoran Emphasize Concepts over the Physical for '47Th Biennial: Fantasy Underfoot'.(ARTS)(ART)


Byline: Joanna Shaw-Eagle, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When artists took paintings off the walls and projected them into surrounding spaces, as with cubists Pablo Picasso's and Georges Braques' 1920s collages, it was just a matter of time until art enveloped its audiences - witness the free-standing, 3-D environments and installations of today.

Associated with this kind of art is the philosophy that ideas or concepts about art are more important than their physical representations. When Jonathan P. Binstock, curator of contemporary art for the Corcoran Gallery of Art was organizing the "47th Corcoran Biennial: Fantasy Underfoot," he naturally looked to art that had broken free of traditional boundaries.

Actually, Mr. Binstock's move was not so natural. The Corcoran held its first biennial of paintings in 1907, and its emphasis on painting has traveled through several decades. The focus continued, but the museum began encouraging more experimental work in the later biennials.

Then, in 1995 with the 44th biennial, artists demonstrated their breakthrough into other media. The exhibit caught up, somewhat belatedly, with the times. Sculpture and installation art were "in," 2-D painting "out." Finally, the 46th biennial of 2000 showed artists revolting against former aesthetic and philosophic principles and turning to new technologies.

Mr. Binstock's biennial continues this but with a twist. The exhibit of works by 13 artists from Canada and the United States is by no means a "head trip," but it requires viewers to tie in with the show's conceptual focus - to explore the ideas behind the ideas. The biennial also requires a love of the photography and video mediums used by many conceptual artists.

Look, also, for the haunted and otherworldly. The mysterious pervades Bruce Nauman's videos, "Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance John Cage)"; "The Paradise Institute" by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; Ken Feingold's sculptural installations that speak; Susan Smith-Pinelo's "Dances With Hip Hop"; and Bruce Yonemoto's two-room "global" installation. Mr. Feingold and Mr. Yonemoto use videos only as parts of their works.

Kojo Griffin (paintings of threatening anthropomorphic menageries), Canadian Marcel Dzama (gouaches of absurd scenes and people), and Mr. Feingold (animatronic mannequins who have existential discussions with each other) embrace universal fears of loss and victimization. They do it in paintings on paper, miniature gouaches and mannequins that speak.

Mr. Binstock demonstrates that conceptual art can be funny with Nancy Davidson's gigantic, site-specific "Double Exposure." Ms. Davidson made it of red, inflatable weather balloon material and floated it above the Corcoran's grand, two-story entrance. She lit it from within and suspended it with strong handmade blue rope.

"I look to humor and the grotesque for inspiration," the sculptor says. The oversized forms can be interpreted as what Mr. …

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