Highlights of the 2017 Whitney Biennial

There’s no point trying to mask the fact that I come at art as a neophyte. A proud neophyte, actually. Rarely do I actively consider how a certain work or artist fits into a larger art-world narrative, nor do I want to. I want to experience art on its own terms, and be interested or moved or charmed by that.

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I like art that looks nice. Exquisiteness can be enough. If a work isn’t attractive, it sure as hell better have something profound to communicate. Ideally, of course, a work accomplishes both. Some of the art on display at the current Whitney Biennial does just that, and in a way that doesn’t need to be unpacked by an art historian.

Some of it, of course, was impenetrable and ugly. I stood in front of some works and felt certain that said artist had made it into this show via either inherited connections or a particular talent for schmoozing. But I will say, I wandered the Whitney Biennial for a full hour and a half, a good 45 minutes longer than my typical threshold in a museum.

Taken as a whole, the collection felt political. It felt diverse. It felt relevant. Below are some of the highlights. I should note that I skipped all the videos, as well as that violent virtual reality piece everyone is talking about. I’ll also note that I come down firmly on the side of support for the Emmett Till painting…

The Whitney Biennial is on at the Whitney Museum of American Art through June 11; 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan.

-Words and photos by Sarah Stodola

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Sarah is the founder and editor of Flung, the author of Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, and a widely published travel and culture writer. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.