John Mason’s ceramics find their way to the 2014 Whitney Biennial, along with Dan Walsh, Amy Sillman, and other contemporary artists. The gallery, located at East 75th Street and Madison, is going to be relocated to the Meatpacking District in 2015. Designed by Marcel Breuer, the Whitney Museum in Upper East expresses a quintessential brutalist architecture, simple and honest in its orthogonal forms, and filled with incredible details.
Of course, Renzo Piano’s work for the new Whitney does not shy from the Bauhaus master. Architecture that serves as the canvas for artworks. The question is what is at stake now for contemporary art. The present Biennial is highly versatile in its expression of media: paintings, sculpture, installations, films, some of which are fanciful, other worldly, while some are provocative, filled with sexual and political references.
A few blocks up in the neighborhood, the Met Museum has been the palace for classic art (with a small collection of contemporary artworks), a winning figure on the museum mile. Compared to the master works, the contemporary artworks at the Whitney can sometimes seem, lean. I am not particularly grabbed by any imagery in the present biennial; other than being current, contemporary art has to withstand the testing of time. Some of installations and works seen at the Whitney are highly eccentric, saturated with raw human emotions and sexual organs. We are familiar with these topics-but can the artists add another layer to reveal the subtlety and nuance of our shared experiences? Other than merely emphasizing human reproductive organs and exposed women breasts? There must exist different ways to say the same thing.
Being conservative is not the point-of course-successful art speaks to people, especially to the ones who are not in the field of art and design: it speaks to people in a universal language that we all practice, it requests us to look at it again, relate to it, and then it lives within us.