02/04/2013 10:01 am ET

Jerry Saltz On 1993 In Art

Twenty years ago, at the 1993 Whitney Biennial, fault lines opened up and the ground shifted. What was quickly labeled the "politically correct" or "multicultural" Biennial contained little painting, which had dominated the past few installments of the show. This time, the exhibition was full of installations (Charles Ray's full-size replica of a bright-red toy fire engine; Coco Fusco in a cage in the courtyard, costumed as a Native American), site-specific sculpture, and video (Matthew Barney as a genital-less satyr). It was mostly art by unknowns, too: Setting aside the video-and-film program, about 30 of the 43 artists were in the museum for the first time. More than 40 percent of the participants were women, quite a few were nonwhite, and a generous amount of the work was about being openly gay. One of the exhibition's admission buttons, designed by artist Daniel J. Martinez, read I CAN'T IMAGINE EVER WANTING TO BE WHITE.

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