Contemporary Museums

Now What? Artwhat in the Biennial of the Americas 2015

The current show – Now? Now – at the MCA Denver seems to be a hodgepodge of jiggery-pokery made by artists from all over the Americas. Being the flagship exhibition for the Biennial of the Americas, it must include many: countries, artists, types, ages, and thus pieces, in a limited space.

Fill the MCA with life at free-drink openings and you will feel the swell and fall of this quilt of art pastiched together and draped on the walls and floors of the square black museum.  It all runs together, washed in hot, summer Denver.

You can try to focus, but the dissimilarity of these works makes this quilt one of those where well-meaning friends each contribute a square. It only works if someone pulls it together with a nice neat border or is being exceptional kind and under critical. This kind of quilt can easily be a hodgepodge, a mishmash, a goulash – messy and hard to pick out the value of any one element.

And now for the part that’s deceptive, that makes it more than just goulash, but jiggery-pokery.

The original tagline of the Denver Biennial – A biennial of art and ideas – has been evolving. By 2015 and its third iteration, this mission/slogan moves ‘art’ down the list.

2015: International festival of ideas, art and culture

Art has been moved down the list, and is really a better reflection of the reality of the first two biennials.  Sure, it sounds like art is important.

2015: The Biennial of the Americas connects business, cultural and civic interests from throughout the Americas by building lasting relationships and inspiring action through dialogue and art.

Visual art is merely this heaving blanket of discordant decoration, on the surface, not in the fibers of the event.

The work of the Biennial connects the people of Denver with one another and with the Americas. We bring the most inspiring artists, innovators, leaders and experts from the Denver metro area and from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean together around the most pressing issues of our time.

I have yet to see an artist on a panel or hear anyone (who is not an artist) discuss it.

However, on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to hear a couple of the artists in this show talk about their work, and I realized that there was more to each work than what was on the wall/floor. I heard about these talks only because I get an email – thank Lauren for that – that announced the little-talk schedule, which is not on the Biennial website. These were not intended for mass consumption, apparently.

The artists, with varying English speaking ability, were given a microphone to talk to a handful of people. The microphone was malfunctioning and make the language less comprehensible. An audio haze on the goulashed quilt.

There has to be some way to rip this quilt apart, and after seeing some of the artists face to face, I felt I should try harder. Although the space was too crowded during the opening for me to descend from this magic quilt to read what was on the wall, I guess some very necessary information is provided on those 4×4 cards. Using those as breadcrumbs, along with my conversations with some artists, maybe we can get some ideas with our art.

Starting today, I’ll investigate one piece at a time. Follow me if you want to see the results. (If you don’t, googling is unlikely to get you there. You can also visit or shit, I don’t know, luck upon it. If I did know how to search better, I’d be like that 17-year-old Norwegian making millions on youTube.)

When: July 14 – August 30, 2015

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

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