nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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She was just having a laugh

white picture

I was having a bit of sit down in this gallery in the Whitney Museum of American Art having been through the Jeff Koons retrospective on the four floors below. Feeling a bit funny after all that Koons humour and colour and general gaudiness, I had found this room on the fifth floor. It is baffling.

What is going on here? I walk in, look at the 12 large silver framed pictures which are basically all white and a bit lined. I pull a face, read the blurb, find out they are by an artist called Agnes Martin who painted them in 1979. The blurb says “The Islands is among the most beloved works in the Whitney’s collection and is regarded as one of Martin’s great achievements. Hmmm.

If Martin had still been alive, I think she should have hung out in the gallery for 20 minute like I did and check out people’s reactions. They walk in one entrance, look at the room  and smile, but then they look perplexed.  If this were a cartoon, they would have a thought bubble above their heads that said “WTF?!?” Then most of them then look bored and walk on through.

Those who don’t get to the boredom stage check out the blurb, pull a face which says “eh?” and then walk out. The more intrigued then go and have a bit of a look at one or two and then clear off. The man next to me on the bench is reading his guide to NY and could be anywhere, he’s not bothered either.

After 20 minutes or so, having tried looking at the pictures by squinting, using just one eye and cocking my head to one side decide that she was just having a laugh. Bonkers.

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No Hoppers here

The Whitney Biennial, it’s the kind of exhibition where you wonder if the seat is really for sitting on or if you are about to sit on the art.

According to the guide I picked up earlier today:

“The exhibition offers a rare chance to look broadly at different types of work and various modes of working that can be called contemporary American art.”

Sounds good, eh? Then it just loses the plot by going on to say:

“Some borders – formal, conceptual, geographic, temporal – get tested, but how the breadth of art is expanding because it is the artist and makers themselves who are pushing boundaries: by collaborating, using the material of others, digging through archives, returning to supposedly forlorn materials, or refusing to neatly adhere to a particular medium or discipline.”

I love a bit of bonkers art, but this was all lost on me. Here’s my alternative guide:

“It’s a confusing mish-mash of media and ideas so far from attractive and understandable they made me yearn for something normal, something pretty to look at that I would actually recognise.”

I doubt anyone here really gets this stuff. I saw a lot of bored looking teenagers trailing after parents willing them to be interested. I would suggest that this is no place to inspire the next generation.

The Guide concludes by saying:

“We hope that the 2014 Biennial will suggest the profoundly diverse and hybrid identity of America today.”

I’m not sure I’d agree with that hope. There’s certainly no new Edward Hopper here.

You can decide for yourself, all the artwork is on the Biennial website. On until 25 May.