Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Whitney Biennial

This year's Whitney Museum Biennial is the last one to be held in the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue before the museum moves downtown. That fact may give the Biennial, which showcases new artists, a bittersweet feeling for longtime patrons of the Whitney. At the same time, for this viewer, this feeling was mixed with a sense of deja vu regarding the show itself.

Two years ago, the Whitney included a selection of work from past Biennials, and I found myself more drawn to those works. Once again, I found the apparent vogue for installations employing video, audio and other mixed media to be too overwhelming and phantasmagorical–and, again, I was drawn to a modernism from decades past, as contrasted with the postmodern mixing of styles and influences here. In particular, I was interested in the work of four women working in abstract expressionism, a style once associated with a male macho aesthetic of big canvases and energetic gestures. Such artists included Louise Fishman, Jacqueline Humphries, Dona Nelson, Amy Sillman and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung. I was particularly impressed with two canvases by Louise Fishman, including "Crossing the Rubicon" (2012) above, suggestive of the rawness, broad strokes and bold colors of the early Willem de Kooning, such as "Gotham News" (1955). My response to Fishman's work demonstrates that ultimately one will always find something that resonates at the sweeping survey that is the Whitney Biennial.

The Whitney Biennial continues through May 25 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, NYC, (212) 570-3600, whitney.org

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