El País, Madrid, 2010

Whitney Biennial review, Diario El País, Madrid

by Barbara Celis, New York, 2010

[translated from Spanish]

A More Female and More Discreet Whitney Biennial. . . Museum reduces number of artists by half this year.

The age of art-as-spectacle is over. With the economy gripping the heels of institutions, galleries and creative talents, it seems reasonable that the Whitney Museum of New York would this year put on a Biennial with half the artists of recent years (55) and, above all, with a profile both discreet and unpretentious. The 75th edition of the Whitney Biennial (through May 30), titled succinctly 2010, does nonetheless provide a headline for those in need of one: it is the first in history with a female majority. And this becomes even more patently obvious on the museum’s top floor, where the retrospective Collecting Biennials has been installed. The best of each decade is set out there, from Rauschenberg to Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, but the female names are almost anecdotal — Eva Hesse, Cindy Sherman and few others.

However, on the three floors occupied by the Biennial proper, there are a great many works made by women and, surprisingly, these are neither feminist art nor odes to extreme youth – as occurred throughout the last decade. Rather, the great majority of the artists are over 40, including one approaching 76, Lorraine O’Grady, relatively ignored up to now, who has finally found recognition. Her work, The First and the Last of the Modernists, is a disturbing display of photographs of the singer Michael Jackson and the poet Baudelaire at different stages of their existence, but organized by age and paired, so that one can see the evolution and transformation of both icons, whose lives had a certain parallelism, however incredible this might seem.

It is surprising to find two photographic series, which in a different context would be called photo-journalism but that the curators have decided to include in the Biennial. Thus blurring a bit further the limits of what can be defined as art. The prize-winning Stephanie Sinclair occupies three walls with horrifying photographs of Afghanian women who have self-immolated in ( … )

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