Whitney Biennial 2012: The Reviews Are In

The Whitney. (Courtesy SusanNYC/Flickr)

The Observer‘s critics, Maika Pollack and Will Heinrich, weighed in on the 2012 Whitney Biennial early this week, and over the past few days a number of other writers have filed reports. Generally speaking, responses have been positive. Below, a brief look at where people stand:

— Jerry Saltz describes the show as “a quiet, incomplete manifesto.” He writes, “It reimagines what a biennial is and explores the ways artists are taking matters into their own hands, resetting the agenda, and fighting back against an art world that had been focused on selling, buzz, and bigness.” Some sections are “twee, genteel, and coy,” and he wishes more women artists and Christian Marclay’s Clock were included, but he’s pleased. [NYMag]

— Times co-chief art critic Roberta Smith argues that the show is “at once superbly ordered and open-ended, densely structured and, upon first encounter, deceptively unassuming, the exhibition manages both to reinvent the signature show of the Whitney Museum of American Art and to offer a bit of redemption for the out-of-control, money-saturated art world.” She also makes the point that, in Robert Gober’s exhibition of paintings by the late Forrest Bess, who showed with Betty Parsons, “the artist-dealer friendship, so basic to much new art, is folded into the show.” Ms. Smith on viewing Werner Herzog’s five-screen video: “I dare you not to cry.” [NYT]

— In Capital, Piper Marshall writes, “[T]he show is simply eclectic, and not much more; viewed as an attempt to demonstrate how art can address social change, the method comes across as a precarious hunch and flail.” She likes the Bess mini show, noting that the late painter’s “inclusion suggests that the curators’ vision cedes much control of what curators usually do, letting artists have the last word on what artists they love.” [Capital]

— Here’s Blake Gopnik’s take: “The show feels like what you might see on a decent Saturday in New York’s best commercial galleries, or on a fine day at an art fair. It’s as though the current market frenzy for contemporary art has sucked the energy out of all the objects that get bought and sold, turning them into interchangeable commodities.” He likes Bess, Matt Hoyt, and Dawn Kasper, though. [NWDB]

— On Artnet, Emily Nathan notes “a striking abundance of what might be called craftwork” and declares, “This is one biennial you actually need to see.” [Artnet]

— And last but not least is Bloomberg’s Lance Esplund who finds the show “certainly not great or even very good overall” and “relatively small, scattered and incoherent–almost scrappy.” He gives best-in-show honors to the Bess gallery and writes, “Biennial is so performance-based… that it feels like process is being elevated above the finished product.” [Bloomberg]

Whitney Biennial 2012: The Reviews Are In