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WHITNEY BIENNIAL V. EVERGLADES
by Charlie Finch
 
My adventurous wife and I, on our honeymoon, drove through the Everglades to a club so strangely alluring that, even though it's open to the public, I'm not going to tell you its name.

Here's a hint, though: The Rolling Stones stayed there a few years back and President Eisenhower fished out of the club in the 1950s.

Even during Florida's dry season, the Everglades teems with predators bubbling up from the aquifer, alligators, panthers, water moccasins, owls and mosquitoes in a forbidding landscape virtually unchanged for millions of years. The cypress walls of the aforementioned club are decked with a unique collection of art: stuffed heads of wild boar and black bear and every kind of fish, grouper, snook, wahoo and tarpon. Black quiet looms through the deceptively still waters, as wizened fishermen who've never cracked a smile tool up for a night catch. A boat glides by without its lights on, eliciting scowls. In the Everglades, rules must be meticulously obeyed in order to survive.

We ordered pan-fried grouper on the other side of a porch screen riddled with bugs. In the summertime, you have to run from your car to the house to avoid being devoured by mosquitoes.

Human violence has also permeated the Glades. The Caloosas massacred Spaniards and drove out Ponce de Leon, and the Anglos wiped out most of the Seminoles in 1873. Under the dead of night, carnivore inhales carnivore throughout the swamp, as the blood of lovers comes alive.

Sunday, we were back in New York at the Whitney Biennial, a different sort of death trip, the dull, bloodless variety. On the fifth floor mezzanine, a slacker in an olive green T-shirt picked his nose in front of the Wrong Gallery's salon-style installation of shrill political art.

My wife observed, "If this show were an animal in the Everglades, it would be killed in seconds."

"Because screaming in the swamp turns you into gator feed," we replied.

Troy Brauntuch's facile black crayon paled next to memories of the Florida night and Peter Doig's retardataire primitives clowned down next to the real thing. We longed for the stuffed standing sea otter which greeted us back at our mystery club in the Glades.

Artists in their 30s throughout this show play at being teenagers with doodles, drips and drabs signifying nothing but their pathetic, dreary lack of self-regard. The fourth floor looks like the MoMA museum store designed by Kurt Cobain.

The simpletons, Chrissie and Philippe, who, for example, included a bad 1991 Miles Davis painting in the Whitney show because it has the word "Bush" in it, when Miles was referring to Bush Babies, the title of one of his discs, should be hogtied to an airboat in South Florida for a night, so they can be tickled by vintage violence of the primitive kind and not the faux indulgences of empty gestures at party time.

As for you contemporary collectors, if they haven't vomited up their dollars beholding the shit at the Whit, we have a suggestion: let them eat fish.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-editor of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).