The Challenge of the Whitney Biennial

The Challenge of the Whitney Biennial

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The 2017 Biennial is not an aesthetic pleasure.  It's jarring and amazing, confounding and curious. Even the art that appears beautiful on the surface has a hidden dark side, like the title image above that features people trapped in an elevator, fighting off bugs. 

But the challenge is important.  The 78th installment of the Biennial reflects the time we live in. There is a lot of anger, unrest and even some virtual violence--and I went after the boloney had dried! 

There is much to wonder at, including a multi-floor installation that is part doll house and part horror show. Cleverly built into the side and along the walls and reflected in mirrored ceilings, Samera Golden's "The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes takes on class struggle.

The Biennial features 63 individual and collective artists, including the mysterious Puppies Puppies. Their work includes de-armed gun triggers and an intriguing back story about their mother's kidnapping--which may in fact be made up--who knows?  One is challenged on every front.  Up is down, beautiful is threatening. 


Celeste Dupuy-Spencer's "Veteran's Day takes on resistance, featuring Picasso's "Guernica" and Muhammed Ali's refusal to be drafted.   She started the painting when she thought Hilary Clinton was going to be elected.  However, when the election went the other way, she said she included this chain-smoking homage to Sylvester the cat in the top left corner that illustrated how she felt.  

The Biennial is not for the casual art lover.  And certainly spring for the audio tour, which features artists and curators explaining the meaning behind the selections and works. 



About Lori Theisen

Lori Theisen is a co-founder and managing editor of The Literary Cafe. A journalism major before she got swept up into the world of corporate marketing, she always wanted to indulge her passion of books, culture and food.