ARTS & CULTURE
03/06/2014 08:43 am ET | Updated Mar 06, 2014

Your Guide To The Artists Of The 2014 Whitney Biennial

The 77th Whitney Biennial opens Friday, transforming the Madison Avenue museum into a dizzying and somewhat overwhelming sketch of the contemporary art world, as well as a prediction of its future. This year's crop of 103 participants features artists and collectives ranging from age 28 to 89, hailing from everywhere from Kingston, Jamaica to Berlin, Germany.

Offering everything from sound installations to arts and crafts, this year's Biennial promises to be "one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years," according to chief curator Donna De Salvo. This year's art fest is divided into three separate floors, each designated by a different curator -- MoMA's Stuart Comer, ICA Philadelphia curator Anthony Elms, and Chicago-based artist and professor Michelle Grabner. While each curator brings a different perspective to the mix, all are focused on including artistic perspectives not grounded in New York.

How are you ever going to navigate 103 of the most exciting artists of today (and tomorrow)? We've picked out ten artist's we're particularly excited for to give you a taste of what's out there. For the other 93, you'll have to make your way to the Whitney. Behold, 10 Whitney Biennial artists we can't wait to see.

1. Pedro Vélez.Born 1973 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Lives and works in Chicago, IL, and Milwaukee, WI.

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White Privilege in Art Criticism

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
Apocalypse Now. Watched with my dad when I was a kid and it fucked me up.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
Handmade posters and banners about white privilege in art criticism and American (USA!) society in general.

2. Victoria Fu. Born 1978 in Santa Monica, CA. Lives and works in San Diego, CA, and Los Angeles, CA.

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Belle Captive

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
Pamela M. Lee took our "Feminist Legacies in Contemporary Art" class to a space that is now CCA Wattis Center. It was all very new to me, and when I encountered Adrian Piper's "Cornered," a video monitor pinned by an overturned table, it was like her video image could see right through me. Piper, looking directly at the camera, was addressing me -- a feeling both alienating and intimate -- collapsing her present with mine. I obviously haven't soon forgotten the power of her words, her gaze, her moment.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
My roots lie in narrative cinema, and I feel very much wedged between the experimental analog films that were heavy influences on me as a student, and more recently the rabbit hole we have all fallen through -- namely, the internet, virtuality and the digital touchscreen. At its very base, my work is an expression of these elements, combining both original 16mm film and appropriated, lo-res clips from the internet. I'll be installing a moving image installation in the Lobby Gallery in early May. The multi-projection piece from the Belle Captive series plays with our actual space, cinematic projected space and computer screen space.

3. Louise Fishman. Born 1939 in Philadelphia, PA. Lives and works in New York, NY.

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Crossing the Rubicon

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
On a personal level, a painting by my paternal aunt, Razel Kapustin, of starving children. I was nine or 10 years old at the time. Secondly, paintings in the Philadelphia Museum and at the Barnes Foundation by Chaim Soutine.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
There are two of my paintings in the Whitney Biennial: "Crossing the Rubicon" and "Ristretto." Both were inspired by residencies in Venice, courtesy of the Emily Harvey Foundation in 2011 and in 2013. The paintings reflect the transformative power of water, light, and the formidable Titians, Tintorettos, Veroneses, etc., as well as the exquisite Murano glass of the early to mid-20th century.

Who else's work are you most excited for at the Biennial?
Without question, the paintings of Dona Nelson.

4. A.L. Steiner. Born 1967 in Miami, FL. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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More Real Than Reality Itself, 2014, digital video

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
Documentary realness.

What is your biggest distraction from working?
Clocks.

5&6. Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst. Drucker: Born 1983 in Syracuse, NY. Ernst: Born 1982 in Pomona, CA. Live and work in Los Angeles, CA.

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Relationship, #____

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
ZD: Arian Piper's Cornered - one of my all-time favorites.
RE: Superstar by Todd Haynes

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
ZD & RE: "Relationship" is a photographic series we created that documents our five plus years together. It's 46 images on view on the 3rd floor and the work shows our evolution as people, as a couple, and throughout our gender transitions. "She Gone Rogue" is a 22-minute fantastical narrative film starring Flawless Sabrina, Holly Woodlawn and Vaginal Davis. It will play in the lobby gallery from March 26 to April 13.

Flawless Sabrina will be doing tarot readings at her apartment across the street from the museum as an auxiliary event connected to the Biennial and also to "She Gone Rogue." Additionally, we are staging a live TV Talk show in the museum lower lobby on April 4 for the public programming portion of the Biennial.

7. Alma Allen. Born 1970 in Heber City, UT. Lives and works in Joshua Tree, CA

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What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
The Clyfford Still paintings at SFMOMA.

What is your biggest distraction from working?
My best distraction from working is my daughter Frieda.

8. Lisa Anne Auerbach. Born 1967 in Ann Arbor, MI. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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Let the Dream Write Itself

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
The majesty of King Tut’s first visit to the U.S. in 1977, followed soon after by Steve Martin’s song abut the ancient ruler demonstrated that humor could be both a celebration and a critique. As a child, I was also quite mystified by John McCracken’s red plank at the Art Institute of Chicago and delighted by the grotesqueness of Ivan Albright.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
A large knitted banner, three knitted outfits, and Issue #2 of an oversized zine called American Megazine.

What is your biggest distraction from working?
Distraction is part of work.

Who else's work are you most excited for at the Biennial?
Keith Mayerson. We’ve known one another for 25 years and we’re both thrilled to be showing in the same room together.

9. Keith Mayerson. Born 1966 in Cincinnati, OH. Lives and works in New York, NY.

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Abraham Lincoln

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
When I was first out of college and living in New York in the early '90s I saw one of the first Mike Kelley shows with the stuffed animals on the blankets, and it was a revelation, a post post modernism. Duchamp-like-readymades, but with warmth, narrative, and emotion, that addressed their context within art history, but also left room for transcendence and the ineffable. After seeing the show I wanted, in the hubris of my youth, to start an art movement called NeoIntegrity, and went to grad school in Southern California to be an artist.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
"My American Dream" is a salon-style installation of 42 paintings created primarily over the last 10 years (although a few others from the beginning decade of my career also slipped in), that is an open-ended, non-linear narrative of my own life with my husband and family, embedded in a comic-like arrangement of images from cultural and political histories of civil rights and personal agency that helped make our country great and gave me inspiration.

What is your biggest distraction from working?
I love teaching, but perhaps this isn't a distraction as much as its an extension of my own work as an artist -- art is about teaching, and in the still rarefied world of fine art, its incredibly edifying to help others help themselves in finding their voice in their work, hopefully also bringing their work to the world to make it a better place.

Who else's work are you most excited for at the Biennial?
Lisa Anne Auerbach, who serendipitously is my Biennial roommate, is an old friend -- she was going out with my best friend Dan Knapp, and we all worked in his mother's house in Colorado on our art together to go to grad school in Southern California, and although we went to different schools, would all hang out together in LA in the early '90s, and its an incredible wonder that we are now sharing the same room. Her work and sensibility is fantastic, and we are fellow travelers in our art in many respects.

10. Miguel Gutierrez. Born 1971 in Flushing, NY. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

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Photo by Eric McNatt

What was the first artwork you remember really shaking you up?
It was probably seeing "West Side Story" on television. Or maybe it was seeing the nearly naked dancers at the Folies Bergere in Paris when I was 12. I can't remember.

Briefly describe your work at this year's Biennial.
"Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/" is a duet for dancer Mickey Mahar and myself. It's the first of a three part series of queer pieces looking at artist burnout, mid career artist status dramas, how to queer the present and the future, and the labor of dancing.

What is your biggest distraction from working?
Answering emails like these. Endless insecurity. Facebook. Porn.

The Whitney Biennial runs from March 7 until May 25, 2014 at the Whitney Museum in New York.

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