If you were lucky enough to get into the opening of free-wheeling artist collective Bruce High Quality Foundation’s Brucennial last night before the line got too long, the reward was a greeting from co-curator and Bruce representative Vito Schnabel, four floors of art from over 300 artists, garbage cans of ice and PBR, and a collection of liquor bottles nestled among hay bales. The party was the real point, but the art on the walls, floor, and various temporary screens presented a messy vision of an artistic zeitgeist far more genial than the Whitney Biennial’s strict curatorial vision.
The explosion that is the 2012 Brucennial isn’t quite as pointed as 2010's edition, which was dubbed “Miseducation” and synergized nicely with the art world's recessionary tribal moment, running alongside the X-Initiative’s own experiment in pop-up aesthetic community. Instead of reading as a protest against the structural economic barriers of the art world, this year’s Brucennial has the air of a movie sequel: expected, professionally executed, and not quite as electric as the original (never mind that the Bruces had been doing the alternative biennial thing for years before it caught fire in 2010).
The deftly arranged salon-style hanging was brimming with energy, but not all of it was a great viewing experience. In evidence was a lot of painting, some messy sculptural works, and a bit of light conceptual play. The lack of wall texts made it a little difficult to tell who did what (part of the charm, and part of why our woozy pictures of the works we liked at the event contain many anonymous entries). A Damien Hirst spot painting nestled among much messier works, but its presence wasn’t so much critical or ironic as just out of place, like an uncle at a teenager’s birthday party. Later on in the evening, a young artist perched on the shoulders of a compatriot and signed her name under the immaculately framed grid of colorful dots.
As ARTINFO exited the doors, the crowd outside pushed at the barricades and chanted at the security guards: “Let the artists in!” It was a fine symbol of the Bruces' definite transformation from cool outsiders to cool insiders.
Click our slide show for 10 works and moments we liked at the 2012 Brucennial.