The Whitney Biennial in an Age of Anxiety

Peter Schjeldahl at The New Yorker:

“Technology will surely drown us. The individual is disappearing rapidly. We’ll eventually be nothing but numbered ants. The group thing grows.” So said Marcel Duchamp to an interviewer in 1966, as quoted in the catalogue of the 2019 Whitney Biennial, by Adam Weinberg, the museum’s director. Weinberg has in mind the deleterious effects of social media, but Duchamp’s bull’s-eye prophecy could do as a capsule review of this Biennial. With scarce exceptions, the mostly youthful artists gravitate to identity or otherwise communitarian politics—strikingly, they are not, for the most part, militant, as if they had resigned themselves to ineffectiveness, but they appear entrenched. The show is about many things, but the irresponsible joy of aesthetic experience is only fitfully one of them. Nearly all the artists are technically adept in mediums that include photography, video, and performance, as well as painting and sculpture, but most of the work, though charming at times, is derivative in form, recycling modes that would not surprise any art-school student of the past quarter century. Lucas Blalock’s photographic images of normal interiors inhabited by surreal whatsits are suavely sensual, and studio photographs by John Edmonds suggest Robert Mapplethorpe’s tony classicism translated into slang.

more here.