It’s also—praise God—small. The Biennial has finally been pared down to a manage-able 55 artists. It is not visually assaultive; it gives all the art room to breathe, whereupon you realize how bombastic most such shows are. The 2010 Biennial is anti-blockbuster. It avoids razzmatazz, star power, and high production. It’s more like a medium-size group show than a big museum smorgasbord. It isn’t New York–centric, youth obsessed, or drawn mainly from a coterie of high-powered New York galleries. It is quiet. The art world has clamored for these things for years, and people should cheer this show. They probably won’t, though. By now it’s clear that there is no such thing as a “good biennial,” that the form itself is bound to generate a mixed bag. This time, the clunkers are the bland placeholders. Too much of the two-dimensional work either recaps ideas about craft and abstraction in generic ways or touches on issues of identity without saying anything. But the unexpected curatorial choices outnumber the banal. I love that, instead of encountering a huge installation in front of the giant fourth-floor window, we see Richard Aldrich’s tiny abstract voodoo doll. Huma Bhabha’s Giacometti-esque sculpture of decaying gods stands almost directly below Sharon Hayes’s videos of someone trying to listen very hard: Does she hear them? Or that the self-reflective, formalistic films and photos of Babette Mangolte are given an entire room, and thus form one of the beating hearts of this show. This veteran artist’s obsessive examinations of what it means to make and display art, her investigations into seemingly outmoded ideas of modernism and presentation, and the ways these things make visible the self are touchstones for much of the work in this show.
more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.