Who is this, and what have you done with Jerry Saltz?
Post #1368 • June 22, 2009, 10:03 AM • 7 Comments
[The Venice Biennale] looks pretty much the way these sorts of big international group shows and cattle calls now look; it includes the artists that these sorts of shows now include. It's full of the reflexive conceptualism that artists everywhere now produce because other artists everywhere produce it (and because curators curate it). Almost all of this art comments on art, institutions, or modernism. Basically, curators seem to love video, text, explanations, things that are "about" something, art that references Warhol or Prince, or that makes sense; they seem to hate painting, things that don't make sense, or that involve overt materiality, physicality, color, or strangeness.
Any critic who says this, of course, is accused of conservatism, of wishing for a return to painting. I'm not for or against video—or any medium or style, for that matter. Nor am I wishing for a return to painting, which can never come back because it never went away. (That said, it's hard to imagine anything more conservative today than an institutional critique. That sort of work is the establishment.) My beef is with the experience that "Making Worlds" produces. It's just another aesthetically familiar feedback cycle: impersonal, administratively adept, highly professionalized, formally generic, mildly gregarious, aesthetically familiar, totally knowing, cookie-cutter. It is time we broke out of that enervated loop. ...
"Making Worlds" is further evidence, if any is necessary, that curators need to take more chances, work outside their comfort zones, stop defaulting to the same answers and issues, try their hand at smaller shows, and stop trying to be so intellectually clever. Birnbaum's show is merely a flat rerun of numerous exhibitions of Relational Aesthetics with some history and new relational aestheticians thrown in. By trying to do too much, he ends up doing very little.