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Whitney Biennial: A Desolate Dying American Suburbia

February 24, 2010

Seeing “red” at the Whitney Biennial 2010, some colors in a bleak American landscape

(**All text, photos, and video by Susan M. Kirschbaum)

“Little pink houses for you and me….” I kept hearing that verse from a John Cougar Mellencamp song while perusing the current Whitney Biennial last evening. Large abstract paintings, often in brown. Images of neat houses in colors with triangular roofs, like Monopoly pieces. A man made of Budweiser cans and cigarette butts with a limp pink dick. A few girls with washed out pastel faces. Flowers, while colorful, somewhat sterile so they hijacked the joy. Myriad videos: a portrait of memory and the elderly; two preteens playing with sound pedals in a bedroom; a young man painting his car wheels white and driving endlessly down a road. A video of a mall, which seemed to confirm that Mellencamp tune,  with a sarcastic grin.

Kudos to the artists’ collective who call themselves “The Bruce High Quality Foundation,” work seen in the video I shot, below.  In the description, BHQ Foundation explains the piece– with a YouTube like video playing on the window shield–  in the following way: “The voice over describes an ambivalent, yearning relationship with the United States, as if the country were a dysfunctional family member or abusive lover.”

Suddenly, I hear another voice in my head. “Who’s yer daddy?”

But this guy’s got no face.

Must be John Cougar Mellencamp. He’s singing, like nothing’s changed: “Ain’t that America, you and me? Ain’t that America, home of the free? Ain’t that America, little pink houses for you and me?”

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