THE BRUCENNIAL – and Bruce said: let there be chaos

Going against the main stream is what The Bruce High Quality Foundation does best.

Bruce High Quality was an imaginary artist who supposedly died in the 9/11 attacks. The board members of the foundation keep a very low profile and stand for everything that has nothing to do with the established art scene in New York. To make the contrast even harder, they hold their Brucennial exactly at the same time as the Whitney Biennial and the New Museum Triennial.

This year’s edition of the Brucennial is held in an old theater on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Anyone can participate. All entries are included.
The result is chaos. This is a far cry from the Chelsea galleries where art is sparsely scattered upon big white walls. At the Brucennial the works are all over the place, covering the entire walls. It looks more like an art market where as much pieces as possible have been brought together, one competing with the other. They have all been put up randomly, first the bigger pieces, and then the smaller pieces between to fill up the gaps. The names of the artists are written directly on the wall.

The vast majority of the artists are unknown (certainly to me). But then all of a sudden there’s Damien Hirst, Basquiat and Keith Haring. You don’t expect to see those here. That Hirst must have been at the Gagosian ’till yesterday! (see my Previous post The Dotted Line)

The famous artists don’t have their names written on the wall. Hirst’s dots and Haring’s little men were not difficult to spot. Those artists have become so overwhelmingly famous that you easily recognize their work within the chaos that this exhibition is.On the otherhand, I didn’t see the Cindy Sherman! I must have overlooked it. It must have disappeared in the crowd.

The exhibition is an exercise in trying to find the needle in the haystack. It’s not easy to look at a delicate little drawing when there is a bold red oversized canvas hanging next to it, screaming for attention. I also had to keep going back and forth constantly to appreciate the big work from a distance and the smaller ones from up close.A huge array of style and medium is represented, making it even more hazardous to find your way through the exhibition.

And then there’s the quality. Sure, taste and color are things that cannot be discussed. But the overall feel of this exhibition is one of low quality. Oh yes, there’s a good number of very great and fine work, but it vanishes in a sea of smudge. The principle of opening up the Brucennial to all artists is very noble. But a humble selection policy would only do good to the entire experience.

(BRUCENNIAL, Harderer, Betterer, Fasterer, Strongerer. Runs through April 20, 2012 at 159 Bleecker street, NYC)

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