First, MANfave Cup of Chicha wrote about some Whitney faves a few days ago and I inexplicably missed it. I rarely get to link to Chicha, so go check her out.
Much has already been written about the mix of the mature artists with the younger artists at the Whitney. The most interesting thing about it to me is this: there are standard-bearers in this show, artists against whom all the young turks may be measured. For me, it makes it easier to point out some young (say, under-35) artists that I’m looking forward to following. (Cecily Brown would be on this list but she was already in my five faves list.) The ages I give is their age at the end of 2003. Here they are:
1.) Chloe Piene (31). Chloe Piene is the luckiest artist in this year’s Biennial. Her drawings are in The Masturbation Room, right next to two Cecily Brown paintings of a woman finding joy in her own dreams. The juxtaposition of Piene and Brown makes for a vibrant, energetic room. Drawn at sex-level, the shaky line of Piene’s drawings is so unsteady as to make the viewer (well, me) wonder if the drawings are made by the masturbating woman herself. While Piene’s drawings raise the question, the answer doesn’t really matter. The energy in her line is seductive in its own right. And oh yeah, her video was captivating. But those drawings…
2.) Emily Jacir (33). Jacir’s mix of conceptual art, documentary, biography and photography didn’t work for me the first time I saw it. I have no explanation for why, but it is the mark of good work that it grows on you over time. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) Perhaps I’ve just been seeing all documentary-style work through the New Topographics lately, but Jacir’s work reminded me very much of New Topo California landscapes. Instead of chronicling the incursion of man into the desert, for example, Jacir chronicles the incursion of law into the dailiy life of ordinary people. As the New Topos ostensibly made neutral photographs but in reality loaded them with wistfulness (see Deal, Joe), Jacir’s photographs at first appear commonplace, but the accompanying text loads them with sadness.
3.) Amy Cutler (29). Cutler is a story-teller. There are not many story-tellers in the visual arts. There are fewer still with her visual sense of humor. Her works are installed in the Kusama Fireflies line, so they’ll either get lots of viewers or they’ll be lost behind the line.
4.) Julie Mehretu (33). Much has been made of how Mehretu’s canvases are growing and that this is a good thing. (One of her Whitney pieces, Empirical Construction: Istanbul, is her largest ever. New York Magazine (click on Top Ten Young Artists link for the Flash) is one of the outlets that noted this.) It is nice and good and rare that Mehretu can work at a large scale, but what is really wonderful about her work is that her large works hold together as tight bundles of energy just as well as her smaller works. This is a very rare thing in contemporary art.
5.) Erick Swenson (31). Like Cutler, Swenson tells a fairy-tale-style story but does it with surreal animal-centric scultpure. His Untitled sculpture of a deer on a carpet (in the first room of the show) isn’t my favorite Swenson, and it doesn’t quite belong in the room, and it was a 2001 piece in the 2004 Biennial, but it was nice to see a Swenson all the same.