Friday, March 9, 2012

Matt Hoyt and Liz Deschenes at the Whitney Biennial

This year’s Whitney Biennial features many artists who combine sculpture, painting, and photography in their work. Artists Matt Hoyt and Liz Deschenes explore the intersection of different media in their work and create relationships between traditional media that disrupt our expectations and engage us as viewers.

Hoyt’s work appears at first to be a presentation of small, precious, found objects. Arranged in groups, the objects are displayed on rectangular shelves, fixed to wooden brackets, and hung about waist high. The center shelf is titled, Untitled (Group 64) 2009-2011, and consists of two objects: a small hammer-shaped multi-colored object and a scarab-like oval disc. The materials listed include clay, pastel, and oil. The title suggests that the artist slowly formed the objects over a period of 2 years. The presentation of these artifacts on small shelves, each the appropriate height for a worktable, becomes both a window into the creative process of the artist and a presentation of the resulting art objects.

Deschenes combines photography and sculpture to create immersive works that respond to both the body of the viewer and the architecture of the Whitney Museum’s Breuer building. The first consists of a pair of large white frames, each containing a dark reflective surface set at an angle slightly off register from the angle of the frame. The work resembles a minimalist sculpture and references the window shapes of the Breuer building. The list of materials used in the work reveals that the glossy material inside the frame is silver-toned gelatin emulsion, or a photograph. The way in which Deschenes incorporates photography into the work disrupts one’s expectation of what a photograph represents. Instead of representing light and time, the photograph is used to represent perspectival space, thus the decision to use a large-format view camera typically used for architectural photography. The second piece is a set of vertical panels, each a silver-toned gelatin silver print. Unlike the first piece, this work has no frame, it exists as both sculpture and photograph at a slightly larger than human scale. Deschenes’s work allows us to experience the intersection of media that in combination have the ability to expand our sense of the architectural space of the Breuer building.

The work of Hoyt and Deschenes engages the viewer and disrupts one’s expectations through the use of unexpected relationships between traditional media.


  1. You do a very nice job of describing the viewer’s interaction with the work. As someone who spent far too much time staring at my own reflection in Deschenes‘ photographs, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one caught up in the experience.


I think you touched on some interesting ideas in your review of both artists, specifically “art as artifact” and the influence of the “architectural space of the Whitney.” I do wish you would expand on those further. I would also like to see a stronger conclusion. Something that goes beyond a restatement of the opening line.

    Simple fixes would be inserting an apostrophe in “years” in your opening sentence, and “waist high” instead of “waste high” (though if you’re calling the art trash, that’s a clever way to do so).

  2. Patrick I agree that this show was an exploration of process and material. The record of process did change the viewer's experience especially in Deschenes' photographs but it was very hard to even see any sort of photo in the sculpture. Your response to the sculpture reflecting the architecture of the Whitney Museum is a perfect way to describe the piece.

    Your descriptions of each piece of art is great but labeling art work as minimal might be problematic due to the fact that people instantly connect that word with very simple sculptures. Your conclusion is a little dry for such a rad review.