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Chris Edwards installation at the 2012 Murdertown Whitney Houston Biennial
Chris Edwards installation at the 2012 Murdertown Whitney Houston Biennial

THE WHITNEY HOUSTON BIENNIAL?

Feb. 22, 2012

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Will the recent death of superstar Whitney Houston cast its shadow over the upcoming Whitney Biennial 2012, Mar. 1-May 27, 2012? The Chicago art collective Murdertown thinks so, and it has just renamed its own biennial in her honor. The Whitney Houston Biennial opens on Feb. 25, 2012, with a public viewing at Murdertown headquarters on N. Milwaukee Avenue, and remains up through March by appointment only.

As a tribute, however, it doesn't go too far. Curator William Sieruta, who organized the show of 36 artists with Madeleine Reyna, said the news of Houston’s death came too late for any of the artists to make works actually referring to the singer’s tragic death.

Sieruta compared his biennial to the Bruce High Quality Foundation's, which is once again mounting its sprawling, largely open-admission answer to the Whitney Biennial, the Brucennial, Feb. 29-Apr. 20, 2012. Details are scarce -- the show has a Facebook page, at least, and space at 159 Bleecker Street in NoHo.

The last Whitney Houston Biennial was mounted in Minneapolis in 2010 by curator Jeff Hnilicka, who claimed that his show was “a survey of the most culturally innovative works relating to the career, the life, the woman: Ms. Whitney Houston.”

Hnilicka said he had no plans to revisit the theme this year. “I’ve been thinking about it a great deal,” he said. “I think Ms. Houston's passing requires an event like this to move past a place of irony, and really dig into some critical discussions of race, addiction, loss, and faith. . . . I think it would be fascinating and transformative to explore these ideas through such an icon, but I sadly don't have the bandwidth on such a tight timeline.” 

For readers of a certain age, it may be enough to remember the 1995 Whitney Biennial, where artist Nicole Eisenman first made the “Whitney Houston Biennial” joke on her huge wall installation.

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