The Whitney Biennial 2019

Every two years the Whitney Museum pulls together an exhibition that is a survey of contemporary American Art. The curators this year, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockly, emphasized current societal and political concerns. I was skeptical that I would find work with mathematical references, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Christine Sun Kim series of charcoal drawings “Degrees of Deaf Rage” charts the personal frustration and anger at various situations. In order to express the range of emotions Kim uses the concept of geometric angles. Acute,right and obtuse angles become measuring tools to gauge the rage in different scenarios.”Degrees of Deaf Rage in the Art World” from 2018 illustrates the difficulties of a deaf artist navigating the art world.

This close up shows the “OBTUSE RAGE” of “VISITING ARTISTS WHO AREN’T COMFORTABLE WITH INTERPRETERS”. The artist is making schematic drawings to express personal and sociological angst using basic geometric forms familiar to everyone.
Agustina Woodgate’s installation “National Times”, 2016/2019 consists of a room with clocks lining the walls connected to the power grid, all showing he same time. This is the same set-up used in schools, factories and other buildings for over 100 years. One digital “master” clock sends the signal to all of the other analog “slave” clocks. This created uniformity through out the building and repetition in this gallery. The ever-present numerical time pressure is palpable in the room.

Upon closer inspection you notice the numbers on the slave clocks are being slowly erased. Woodgate has attached sandpaper to the backs of the hands of the clocks. The “master” clock will eventually be the only one showing the digits. By removing the numerals the pressure of time will be somehow eased. I feel this work expresses the way numbers especially when used to track time in a workplace can have an emotional negative connotation.

Susan Happersett