This year’s Whitney Biennial is an honest representation of each one of us, and the people before us. You will find (or more precisely, smell) your grandparents inside William Pope L.’s installation Claim, see yourself in The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes by Samara Golden, realize how beautiful freedom is from Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s short film The Island, and understand oppression from mind of Frances Stark’s Censorship Now!. Most likely, you will walk out of the museum with some sort of peace and hope, we did.
“It is a Biennial of hope, irony, and sincerity,” Director Adam D. Weinberg said in the morning to welcome us at the press preview. The world was very different when curators Christopher Lew and Mia Locks took the position in Fall 2015. In a difficult time like this with so much uncertainty, they proceeded with grace, clarity and the spirit of adventure and sensitivity to tell stories of the people. Through the intimacy of working with artists, they brought us a Biennial that is unique and crucial to our current environment.
“Artists don’t see what it is, they see what it can be.” If you take a poll amongst your peers, everyone has their favorite works of art. Below is a list of deeply satisfying artworks we felt particularly moved by at the Biennial. We suggest to start from the 5th floor and worked your way up to the 6th floor. Note that some of the works are installed outdoor.
1. Claim, William Pope L.
This smelly installation on the 5th floor will be the first thing you notice. The huge pink box is covered with MadDog liquor. The liquor gradually washes out the faces painted on the box. Inside the box, you can see the artist’s writing and his MadDog bottle framed on the wall.
2. A Fall of Corners, Samara Golden
Samara Golden’s installation is located by the window that overlooks Hudson River. Her work reflects the world that we live in. It shows the contrasts of chaos and peace. Through her brilliant usage of mirrors and light from the window, Samara Golden created an ideal world inside the museum.
3. The Island, Tuan Andrew Nguyen
The Island was shot entirely on Pulau Bidong, an island off the coast of Malaysia that became the largest and longest-operating refugee camp after the Vietnam War. The film shows how cruel the war was and what the once most densely populated place on earth looks like right now.
4. Censorship Now!, Frances Stark
One of the most controversial works at Whitney Biennial, Frances Stark’s Censorship Now! is a giant book that explores the freedom of media and how the current administration is manipulating the public’s views.
5. Site-specific installation, Raúl de Nieves
One of the most Instagrammed works at Whitney Biennial, Raúl de Nieves’ installation catches everyone’s attention with the use of materials and colors. Unlike the Western tradition, the artist celebrates death gloriously and hopes for the rebirth and transformation after death.
6. The John Riepenhoff Experience, John Riepenhoff
Climb up a 90-degree stairs to experience The John Riepenhoff Experience. The warmth from those light bulbs will keep you warm for the rest of the season. The intimacy of the experience is hard to describe in words, but it put a smile on every visitor’s face.
7. Salón-Sala-Salón -Classroom/Gallery/Classroom, Chemi Rosado-Seijo
A conceptual project with everyday implication, Chemi Rosado-Seijo moved the gallery to the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, a public high school on the Lower East Side. Students from the school will meet in the Museum for their lessons over the course of the exhibition, and works by Biennial artists Sky Hopinka and Jessi Reaves will be on view in the school. On the student’s desk, visitors can see artworks and essays by students from the school.
8. Real Violence, Jordan Wolfson
Jordan Wolfson’s VR art is a real nightmare. You can just tell from the gasps in the crowd. The violence itself is as horrified as the ignorance in the city. We don’t want to tell you too much about the video so that you can really experience the ultraviolet 90-second film by yourself.
9. Root Sequence, Asad Raza
Before you head out to the terrace, you will go through this beautiful and quiet garden by artist Asad Raza. The trees were moved to the museum two weeks ago from all over the world, such as Thailand, Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Some of them have already begun to blossom.
10. Chanson du ricochet Sound Installation, Zarouhie Abdalian
This is a piece that can be heard on the staircase between the sixth and seventh floors. The visitors will be looking over the construction site around Whitney Museum on the terrace. The subtle voice recites vocabulary such as “machete” and “whip.” Zarouhie Abdalian hopes to raise the awareness of the labors that don’t receive recognition for the development of buildings and communities.
Whitney Biennial, March 17th – June 11th. Purchase tickets here.
Top Image // Ajay Kurian’s Childermass installation at Whitney Museum