A Biennial Scorecard: Culling the Highlights of the Whitney's Signature Survey

What’s that smell in the air that’s been wafting as of late? Is it the onset of spring? Nope, it’s the Whitney Biennial! Once again, it is time for the ever-ambitious, always-criticized exhibition that attempts to summarize two years of American contemporary art. Only this time, it’s not so contemporary, and it’s not totally American. Whereas the 2010 edition blazed with a newfound national energy showing tightly-focused selections from American artists, the 2012 biennial confounds expectations with artists young and old, local and not, and an overall mood of dark confusion.

Most Appropriate Adjective: Weird. Curators Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders have described this biennial as taking inspiration from “old, weird America.” The show does have a funky air to it, the creepiness of an old blues song, maybe, mixed with a certain Midwestern-suburban angst and the hopeless darkness of unlit highways. Lutz Bacher’s printed book pages picturing galactic phenomena, “The Celestial Handbook,” are sprinkled throughout like punctuation marks, lending the event a certain alien quality that tickles the subconscious.

For a complete list of K‘s picks for Art Info click here.