Bologna, The Whitney Biennial 2017, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

“It smells like bologna in here,” Sam said.  He meant bologna sausage, aka ‘baloney’. We were at the Whitney Biennial, and he’d been further into the room than I had. Here’s what we found when we went to investigate —

Claim: Whitney Biennial Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Claim: Whitney Biennial Version – Pope.L aka William Pope.L. The hand stitched banner above is by artist Cauleen Smith. (I’m fond of the symmetry of the two red bags)

This is a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each tacked onto the appropriately pink background with a black and white photocopy portrait attached —

Detail - Claim:Whitney Biennial Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Detail – Claim: Whitney Biennial Version – Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Playing with words and numbers, the artist’s ‘claim’ is that the number is related to New York’s percentage of Jewish population, though the photographs were chosen randomly. See that drip in the photo above? We were there a couple of weeks after the exhibition opened, and the passage of time was wreaking a little havoc with the materials in this piece.

Claim:Whitney Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Greasy Art Stuff – nope, it’s not archival.

The curator’s note tells us that Pope.L has made other versions of this work, many focusing on Black subjects, and goes on to say that “Claim (Whitney Version) plays with our tendency to project ourselves onto numbers and stokes our awareness that such counting often lays the groundwork for systematic acts of discrimination.”

Conceptual art can challenge the viewer in ways that strictly visual art does not. Still, it’s rewarding to see it through, even though it’s dependent on our patience in being willing to read about it.

Um, there may be one potential problem here —Service dog at the WhitneyWe went on to view the next floor, so can’t say what happened when dog met art. Hopefully, training prevailed.

Claim won the the Bucksbaum Award, which recognizes one artist from each Biennial exhibition. The Whitney will host a show of Pope.L’s work this fall.

What do you think of this exhibition?

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

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10 thoughts on “Bologna, The Whitney Biennial 2017, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

    • There were trays on the floor for the oil to drip into. I would think it might get pretty rancid by show’s end. We were there after it had been up a couple of weeks. (I still wonder about the dog!)

  1. Clever concept, but decaying materials are not pleasant. In the future the work will only exist in photos. Bit like Lady Gaga’s meat dress. I suppose it is meant to have shock value associating people with hundreds of pieces of meat but the smell must have been challenging. I hope the dog did not get food poisoning!

    • I think in the world of challenging art exhibitions it must get harder and harder to come up with new concepts. When I go to the Biennials, I know there will be things I don’t ‘get’ and a lot of the value in it, for me, is to be a little shocked, and to have new things to think about before coming around to some understanding. And when you think about it, a lot of art since the 1950s isn’t archival.

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