First There Was Babel, Now There is Whitney

Ellen Harvey

Photo by Libby RosofCreative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

When you go to a museum, do you ever feel as though you don’t quite “get it”?

Now, don’t worry — the Whitney Museum of American Art explains it all for you. After all, the goal is to encourage new audiences to access art. Right?

Their Biennial 2008, which runs through June 1, is one of the most prestigious gatherings of new art. The exhibit is so new and so bold that it is a good thing the Whitney helps entice the potential audience with clear and concise summaries of the artists’ works.

Or is it? Carol Diehl found her own favorite Whitney exhibition descriptions, some of which we reprint here along with a couple of choice additions.

Sure, it might be easier to write a description of an episode of Gilligan’s Island (“Gilligan finds a crate full of magician’s props, but his attempts to use them backfire.”)

Still, you might want to get the Professor off the island to help you with the Whitney’s invitation to art:

It is the problematizing of expectations and formalisms through destruction and transformations that is the heart of the continuing project.

Baldessari’s juxtapositions, displacements, and spatial interventions resonated with Magritte’s uncanny aesthetics but also with the disjunctive poetics very much at the dyslexic heart of his own work. This was further achieved through the deployment of elective amenities, primarily by displacing the familiar””and familiar narratives””with the unexpected or with other elements of disruption, including surprising spacing or gaps.

Todd Alden on John Baldessari

Thomson’s inherently conversational practice both gamely Pop-ifies its often antiaesthetic historical precedents and resituates that generation’s thought experiments in the social realm.

Suzanne Hudson on Mungo Thomson

Bove’s “settings” draw on the style, and substance, of certain time-specific materials to resuscitate their referential possibilities, to pull them out of historical stasis and return them to active symbolic duty, where new adjacencies might reactivate latent meanings.

Jeffrey Kastner on Carol Bove

As political actions, Haeg’s initiatives subvert the idea that humans are the earth’s apex species by alleviating our alienation from our environment, our food, and each other. Artistically, they challenge viewers and participants to diversify their own daily routines in favor of poeticism and positive interaction in all regards.

Trinie Dalton on Fritz Haeg

Ultimately, Lawler’s self-reflexive photographs about the endless parades of artistic display point toward the regeneration of surplus meanings produced in the spaces between artworks and exhibition frames. Marking the apparatus of the art system, Lawler’s knowing work is at once critical and in on the game.

Todd Alden on Louise Lawler

As McMillian continues to explicate present moments, his work comments on the lugubrious underbellies implicit to each cultural progression and movement.

Trinie Dalton on Rodney McMillian

Perhaps plucked from a commercial or shareholder prospectus, each vignette denies specificity even as it is fetishized through its transmutation into luxurious materials at a grand scale, leaving the narrative ambiguously open””and ready to be consumed, repurposed, and discarded anew.

Suzanne Hudson on Seth Price

Don’t walk, run!

- Bill Reichblum

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2 Responses to “First There Was Babel, Now There is Whitney”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Rarely Artistic: Art Galleries’ Ridiculous Language
    January 30th, 2013 00:10
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    [...] Guardian “First There Was Babel. Now There’s Whitney” [...]

  2. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Know Your Art Speak (If You Must)
    December 4th, 2013 00:08
    2

    [...] Guardian KadmusArts: First Babel, Now Whitney [...]

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