Opening Night at the Whitney Biennial: The Art Crowd Is Not Impressed

Mika Rottenberg's Valkyrian milkmaids.Courtesy of the artist and Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery;

Image courtesy of The Whitney Museum of American Art

It was hip to be squared at the opening of the 2008 Whitney Biennial last night, where a slew of artists in the sculpture-heavy show went for big raw boxy installations. Think the skeletal frame of a house, cubes of cracked glass, a resin block, a pool-size bin of kitty litter, slices of offices and rooms and houses. With its organic materials and echoes of architecture, the show sometimes looked like Janson’s History of Conceptual Art meets Home Depot. We're not sure what it all meant, but don’t miss Mika Rottenberg’s cool ramshackle barn in which you watch videos of Valkyrian milkmaids and baying goats.

As a whole, the hometown show (more than half the artists now live in New York) wasn’t quite wowing the crowd. “It could have used a jolt of sexy painting," Artkrush editor Paul Laster complained. There was not much politics, even less sex. The dominant aesthetic was so tentative and half-done that one rival institution’s curator wondered if artists racing to make deadlines hadn’t finished. Then an SVA professor thoughtfully explained: “It’s what they’re teaching in schools now. It’s non-iconic.”

Buzzy works included the powerhouse lobby office from Jason Rhoades (the gifted L.A. artist who died of heart failure in 2006), Phoebe Washburn’s room-size ecosystem run on Gatorade, and Eduardo Sarabia’s witty storage room of art knockoffs by Koons, etc., which thoughtfully included an order catalog. Said Chelsea dealer Robert Goff: “It’s awesome — because it looked finished.” —Alexandra Peers

Related: The Facebook Biennial [NYM]