Own Your Reaction: 2010 Whitney Biennial

Aurel Schmidt, "Soldier"

Last Saturday I decided to brave the rainy weather, rallied two of my close friends and some spare umbrellas and set out for the Whitney Museum of American Art. We were on a mission to take in the seventy-fifth edition of the Whitney’s signature exhibition. The 2010 Whitney Biennial presents a snapshot of social movement, politics and culture in an exhibit that challenges patrons with a range of media, from painting and sculpture to video, photography, performance, and installation. The exhibit runs through May 30, 2010 and student tickets are $ 12.

Fifty-five artists contributed to this intense exhibition. Visitors are invited to face the collection’s unique response to 2010. The Whitney Museum of American Art is known for featuring works by living artists in its efforts to collect and preserve contemporary American art.

Contemporary art is known for provoking skeptics and welcomes the full spectrum of individual reaction, rejection included. This in mind, I was curious to see exactly how I would respond.

Tam Tran, "Battle Cry" (2008)

This exhibit was certainly anxiety provoking at times. It held glimpses of hope, but without reassurance. There were certain rooms that I was uncomfortable standing in. Other rooms, I was not comfortable entering at all. Everyone seemed to take a different stance, some people walked right into the center of it all, others hovered around doorways, as if guarding themselves anticipating an attack. Some looked confused, some pensive, others plain curious.

At a certain point, I laughed out loud. My friend jabbed me in the side and shot me a dirty look. “What,” I yelped semi-apologetically, “this is my reaction!”

“What if the artist were standing right there?” she asked.

“I would hope that he’d appreciate that this is my natural reaction to his work,” I replied.

It was my reaction, and I own it. I really appreciate that about contemporary art, it has the potential to push you somewhere fast. It really speaks to your gut, and owning your reaction is half the experience.

This collection pushes the limits. It certainly pushed me. There were too many standouts to make mention of them all, featured here are two of my favorites. In the photo above, Tam Tran and her nephew explore all the angles of being a child superhero, at once, small and fierce. Another artist who held my attention was Aurel Schmidt, and her intricate perspective on vices. In the photo below Daniel McDonald, sculpts a cryptic scene showcasing the king of pop and good old Uncle Sam.
Thoughts? Feelings? Reactions? Let it out.

Photo: Daniel McDonaldThe Crossing (Passengers Must Play Toll in Order to Disembark: Michael Jackson, Charon, and Uncle Sam) 2010, mixed media.

*****
Tonya Marie Reid, CUSSW ’10

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