Ricky Swallow1

The 2014 Whitney Biennial

Perhaps the most telling moment regarding this year’s Whitney Biennial came when we posted an image of Dutch artist Peter Schuyff’s spiral-carved pencils on Instagram. “Where is this craft show?” joked Mondo Cane’s Patrick Parrish. “Bedford Ave?” he asked, referring to Brooklyn’s main hipster thoroughfare. Yep, this biennial feels decidedly different than years past. There are still inscrutable videos, and works we simply slid by for lack of interest, but this year had moments that felt smaller, more tactile, more intimate — and for us, more compelling — than in years past.

Much of that feeling emanated from the fourth floor, which was curated by Michelle Grabner, a painter and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who said in the exhibition notes that “she considered the job of organizing the Biennial as being more ‘curriculum building’ than curating,” with a strong emphasis on making and materiality. Her floor included the majority of our favorite works, including the aforementioned pencils, Shio Kusata’s bright, graphic ceramics, Alma Allen’s Brancusi-like marble sculptures, Sheila Hicks’s ceiling-height knits, and, above, Ricky Swallow’s patinated-bronze casts of found cardboard sculptures, which we could have looked at for hours.

This, of course, is exactly what some people will not like about this year’s Biennial, and we’re not art critics by any means (though the fantastic Jerry Saltz seems to mostly agree with us!). We can’t really tell you whether this is “contemporary art in the United States now,” but that’s exactly why you ought to make every effort to go see it for yourself. If you can’t, browse some of our favorites below, then click through to Facebook for a look at our complete album from the opening.
Rebecca-Morris_better
Rebecca Morris
Shio Kusaka1
Shio Kusata
Ricky Swallow2
Ricky Swallow
John Mason
John Mason
Elijah Burgher

Elijah Burgher
Peter Schyuff2
Peter Schuyff
Alma Allen
Alma Allen
Dan Walsh
Dan Walsh
Bjarne Melgard2
Bjarne Melgaard
Amy Sillman
Amy Sillman
Academy Records2
Academy Records
Radames Figueroa
Radames “Juni” Figueroa