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Artist’s Network was in New York this week for a preview of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 78th exhibition in the series, which dates back to 1932 and is perhaps the most influential survey of contemporary American art. This year’s program is the first Biennial to be held in the Whitney Museum’s new building in Lower Manhattan.
Co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, the 2017 Biennial features more than 60 artists and artist-collectives–a relatively small number, by the standards of recent biennials. Painting is well-represented; there’s also lots of video and installation, as well as examples of sound art, sculpture and photography. Among the less-conventional media and materials on display are text-based video games, virtual reality, a forest of potted saplings, and a walk-in structure whose walls are lined with slices of decaying bologna.
As much as anything else, the Biennial provides fodder for debate among art lovers, artists and critics. Is it an accurate reflection of current American art? Is such a thing even possible? Is the whole program hopelessly biased one way or another? Are the selections too political? Not political enough? Is there too much painting? Not enough painting? Much, of course, depends on one’s perspective–at this week’s press event I overheard arguments on both sides of this last question.
A generous sample of artwork from the Biennial can be seen online at whitney.org/Exhibitions/2017Biennial. There’s something here for…if not everyone, almost everyone. (If you’re wholly adverse to modern art, you may just want to look away now.) Some of this correspondent’s personal favorites were the multipanel oil-and-encaustic paintings of Julien Nguyen; the aggressively impasto oil paintings of Dana Schutz; a dazzling and disturbing wall of faux-stained-glass windows by Raúl de Nieves; and a slideshow-style video installation by Oto Gillen made up of a year’s worth of photographs of New York City streets.
Because Artist’s Network is devoted in large part to painting and representational art, we’ve put together the following preview with an eye toward artwork in that vein, plus a few other selections that hint at the breadth of work on view. Enjoy–or don’t!–and take to the comments to let us know your thoughts.