Monday, October 6, 2014

The MAD Biennial

When Deidre Adams was in town, Natalya, Benedicte, and I met at MAD, the Museum of Art and Design in New York City.   We went to see the MAD Biennial, NYC Makers.  The exhibition program described the biennial as follows:

"NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial is the first in a series of exhibitions examining cultures of making in urban communities.  Showcasing more than 100 participants, the Biennial celebrates the artisans, artists, designers and other makers who live and work throughout the five boroughs of New York City today.

Presenting a diversity of cultural producers on a level playing field, NYC Makers is an open and inclusive project, featuring practitioners whose work demonstrates the highest skill, discipline and innovation.....Makers were nominated from a range of trades and disciplines by over 300 New York City-based cultural leaders and civic figures, and selected by a panel of ten, including representatives from all five boroughs..."

I had high expectations for the Biennial.  I've loved most of the exhibitions I've seen at MAD.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Biennial didn't live up to the excellence of its predecessors.   I felt the artwork presented on the fourth floor was much stronger as a group than those on the fifth, making the Biennial very inconsistent in experience and appeal.  I also think the presentation of the artwork on the fourth floor was more thoughtfully considered than the fifth.  This was both surprising and disappointing.  I think, perhaps, the solution would have been to select fewer works for the fifth floor, and focusing on stronger pieces.  Because the galleries were organized by intent, such as "Community Garden" seen here (anchored by an installation of organic plants and the naturally dyed yarn whose colors were created with the plants), artworks weren't really transferrable between floors.  But I think it was a disservice to those artworks displayed on the fifth floor to be so crammed in because most couldn't be appreciated to their fullest advantage.

A view of the fifth floor installation -- it looks busy and cluttered in my opinion, and makes it hard to enjoy each piece individually.

A view of the fourth floor -- I felt the more open display allowed viewers better opportunity to appreciate each piece. (I also thought this collection of art was stronger, with or without installation considerations.)  

Nonetheless, there were plenty of pieces that I thought were interesting, exceptional, and/or thought-provoking .  Here are some of my favorites:

A portion of Every Person in New York, 2014
Ink on Paper
Jason Polan
The artist is attempting to draw every person in New York City. He sketches in the streets, subways, cafes, museums,  and other public places, hoping to capture them on paper before they disappear in the crowd.

Parasol Skeleton Hat, 2012
Wood, straw, cotton
BFAMFAPhD represented by Ben Lerchin, Caroline Wollard, Lika Solkova, Vicky virgin, and Julian Boilen.  The program indicates "The 2005 census revealed that there are more artists than lawyers, doctors, or police officers in the United States.  Each year, another 100,000 students graduate from American institutions with arts-oriented degrees.  The three projects here are an etched Plexiglas installation of data by Caroline Woolard; a line of clothing instigated by Lika Volkova, in which discarded and unwanted paintings are used as raw material for a local fashion cooperative; and an online data tool by Vicky Virgin and Julian Boilen.

Echo Hat, 2014
displayed in front of Vigilant Floral, 2011
Mylar wallpaper
Flavor Paper and Dan Funderburgh
(If you look closely, you'll see security cameras within the floral wallpaper design)
A Knight of the Round Table and Sir Gawain
from King Arthur's Camelot, Cincinnati Baller, 2013-14
Sally Ann Parson, Parson-Meares Ltd, Sandra Woodall, designer

Eight mannequins (from MOTION2_RED), 2014
Ralph Pucci

Large Chiffon Hat and Blackbird, both 2014
Harriet Rosebud
displayed in front of Gold Leaf Dome panel Sample, 2013
2013-14 Die Fledermaus Act II, Metropolitan Opera Scenic Artists
Robert Jones, designer
on the opposite wall is Peacock Crest, 2013
2013-14 Die Fledermaus Act I
Velociraptor Mount, 2008
Steel, Polyurethane
Richard Webber
Working behind the scenes at museum, Webber made this mount for a Velociraptor dinosaur skeleton to illustrate how fragments of fossilized bones could be safely displayed.  I love the shadow it makes, too.

There were a few other artworks I would have liked to share, but my pictures don't do them any justice so I won't belittle them here.  

Despite my lackluster feelings about some of the art in the Biennial, I will say that it was a successful exhibition in that I continue to think about it.  Sometimes I'm inspired by things I loved, and other times I'm scratching my head.  Why did the panel accept some of the pieces?  What didn't make it in?  I wish I had some insight into the selection process because I'm sure it was fascinating.  

If you'd like to see the Biennial, be sure to get to MAD before October 12.  If you do go, please share your thoughts; I'd love to hear if you had the same experience I did.

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