Lauren O’Neal (United States, 1968), “The Earnest Contingent,” 2004–2010, 60+ chairs, 14 x 10 x 8 feet (variable). Lent by the artist.
 Not yet. This piece has an interesting conceit. The girl is in a natural state in a natural environment, but everything about the drawing seems posed, as if lifted from an generation-old American male fantasy that may have only recently acquired some nostalgic sentiment. There's some thematic play on the concept of bait, too, half-submerged as she is in water. Paley's piece is terrific, and Lesley MacVane's photographs of colorful domestic detritus tell a compelling (and local) story about the economic strain of Cliff Island's lobstering culture. They're some of the most impressive photographs here. I have to ask: Did you happen to see the chairs out there?

 All 60 of them. Hard to miss at a towering 15 feet. I get it: The pigpile of chairs addresses the absurdity of defining identity with material culture, as each seat reflects its sitter. The mass of designed objects that have gone in and out of style are reduced to their base materiality. It's nice to see some humor, and the theatrical precariousness of the pile's formation is just fun to marvel at. It is awfully gimmicky, as a concept, exhausted. The sheer size of this work lets it take a headlining role at the exhibit, which I don't think it deserves. Perhaps this work would be more successful if each of the chairs were fabricated by the artist, or interactive.

It feels like it's here just to be avoided. It's definitely in the same family as what I expect to find in a biennial, but just doesn't have the same impact as the lobby installations. What are your thoughts on Natasha Bowdoin's "Untitled (Alice)"?

You know, I'm generally not attracted to work that incorporates text in this way, as a secondary device that emphasizes something already accessible in the visual information, but Bowdoin inserts excerpts from Lewis Carroll's seminal works (while perhaps an easy literary choice) into these breathing, writhing, fantastical forms that are so visually active, the letters become formal elements, scales and shadows. The paper construction, which hovers beautifully in this central location, would stun with or without the element of language. Avy Claire also relies on text in her installation "For the Trees." Thoughts?

The use of text always strikes me as a very personal, emotional process. The words in Claire's piece are barely decipherable and empty of content, but the script that composes her trees (done in rapidograph on hanging polyester film) resonates with a wistfulness and impenetrability that makes the piece unapproachable to me. It's an arduous, innovative process, but ultimately a personal one, unchallenging almost by definition. This piece brought a lot of smiles and absolutely deserves inclusion, but its experience is more atmospheric than focal. Philip Brou's "Black Box," which won a Purchase Prize, has the opposite effect, wouldn't you say?

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Related: Slideshow: ''Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom'' at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Review: ''New Mythologies'' at Candita Clayton Studio, Slideshow: Alexander McQueen's ''Savage Beauty'' exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Kim Bernard, Alicia Eggert, Photography,  More more >
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