Today we bring you a review of the deCordova Biennial from our friends at Big Red & Shiny in Boston. Twenty-one artists and collaborative teams from the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont are featured in this six-month survey exhibition. Author John Pyper notes, “…the intention is to create a snapshot of the artists in New England and to feature emerging talent. This goal is a bear of a problem.” The article was originally published on October 25, 2013.
Over the last few years I’ve developed sympathy for those who organize large, all-encompassing exhibits like biennials. If you hold on too tightly to a curatorial vision, you can create an autobiographical list of your favorite artists or styles. If you are too loose with a curatorial vision, you may accidentally create a Rorschach test allowing the public to complain about almost anything, including what others might deem a success.
The deCordova Biennial, now in its third iteration, is a paradox. It’s the type of show that you don’t remember the show, but you remember the work. Walking around it gives you a feeling that something is off, and I think reading the catalog reveals what is causing that feeling. The deCordova Biennial is not one thing. I have complete sympathy for this beast’s curator, but the exhibition doesn’t commit to any vision for art besides the idea that artists in New England are part of a wider network that includes artists outside of New England. The Biennial doesn’t become a Rorschach test because the labels weren’t good enough or for some other technical flaw. It was designed to be a Rorschach test.