The 10 Must-See Artists at the Whitney Biennial

A guide to the most exciting paintings, sculptures, videos, and live performances.

March 2, 2012

Held every March in the slate-gray Madison Avenue behemoth that the Whitney Museum will soon vacate for newer, hipper downtown digs, the Whitney Biennial is one of those exhibitions that get the whole art world talking.

Launched in 1932 as an edited Who's Who in American Art, the Biennial has helped put such luminaries as Matthew Barney, Glenn Ligon, and Cindy Sherman on the map. This year's edition is smaller than Biennials past, with 51 artists hailing from all over the United States. Performance art will play a prominent role, as it did in 2008 and 2010, with curators Jay Sanders and Elisabeth Sussman reserving the museum's entire fourth floor for music, theater, and dance (among other things) on a massive stage. The exhibition runs March 1 to May 27.
Here's the scoop on 10 not-to-be-missed artists and their work.

Forrest Bess (via Robert Gober)
Gober, a sculptor best known for his surrealist interventions (think legs, breasts, and basin sinks sticking out of walls), will show works by the late Texas "outsider" artist Forrest Bess (1911–1977). Bess' small, mostly abstract canvases were hosted at various Texas museums and occasionally elsewhere during his lifetime, though rarely since. Christie's New York is hosting an exhibition of his work in conjunction with the Biennial to benefit the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (on view at Rockefeller Center March 1 to April 3).

Left: Forrest Bess (1911-1977) The Penetrator signed, titled and dated The Penetrator 1967 Forrest Bess (on the stretcher) oil on canvas 18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 60.9 cm.) Painted in 1967.

Photo courtesy of Christie's

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