Ralph Lemon, Untitled, 2021, oil and acrylic on paper, 26 by 40 inches.
The most significant aspect of this year’s Whitney Biennial is its exhibition design. For the first time since 2016, the museum’s fifth floor has been restored to its Renzo Piano-designed primordial state, forgoing walls in favor of a field of fragmented, Tetris-like half-walls arranged in no discernible order or pattern, bookended by city and Hudson River views. The sixth floor, by contrast, is a funereal warren of black walls and black carpet: a “dark video hallway,” as my friend put it. It’s a mess. But bless this mess; it’s the biennial postponed because of a global pandemic, following the Black Lives Matter protests, and at the dawn of what feels like another world war. With “Quiet as It’s Kept,”curators David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards peer into the broken mirror of the past three years, gathering shards to figure out what just happened, and where to go from here.