New Worlds at the Whitney Biennial

The Whitney Biennial’s three curators, Stuart Comer, Michelle Grabner, and Anthony Elms all approached the expansive task of assembling a survey of Contemporary American art in very different ways. Anthony Elms is influenced by a Susan Howe quote, Stuart Comer plays with a broad theme surrounding migration and movement, and Michelle Grabner chose conceptually critical artwork with different priorities. The three curators, for the most part, each had their own floor to work with, although artwork was placed in many unconventional parts of the building. Out of the three curators, I resonated the most with Stuart Comer’s 3rd floor exhibition because of its strong tie to its theme and its being contemporary.

The theme of his statement was the most straightforward and was articulated the most clearly out the three. The widespread theme of migration and movement was able to come into aspects of each of the works he chose, including how he presented them.  The wall statements were contained in unimposing parts of the room instead of placing nametags underneath each piece. This pushes the viewer to carefully study the wall statement to align it with the art in the room. It also creates a momentum for the art to be in a constant flow of uninterrupted space as the viewer moves their eye from piece to piece. This uninterrupted space creates an environment that feels genuine rather than institutionalized. Thus, as the viewer walks through, they wander through different environments in the exhibit that create a full experience that reflects the theme in an honest way.


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