People’s Biennial is an exhibition that examines the work of artists who operate outside the “sanctioned” mainstream art world, recognizing a wide array of artistic expression present in many communities across the United States. For the exhibition’s first iteration (2010 – 2012), co-curators Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann direct their focus on Portland, Oregon; Rapid City, South Dakota; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Scottsdale, Arizona, and Haverford, Pennsylvania. Working in cities that are not considered the primary art capitals, the artists in this exhibition present significant contemporary work, ranging from documentary photographs of military life in the heartland to video works focusing on the biological activity in urban ecosystems. In covering the little-known, the overlooked, the marginalized, and the excluded, the exhibition represents a real snapshot of creative practice in America today.
Working in close collaboration with curators from the five hosting cities, Fletcher and Hoffmann conducted a year of research by visiting the communities, participating in a series of public events and open-calls, and meeting hundreds of artists. Their journey led to the eventual selection of works and the exhibit touring to the partner institutions in each locale.
Hoffmann, who also curated the recent Istanbul Biennial, writes in the exhibition’s catalogue, “People’s Biennial responds to several frustrations with the homogeneity and insular aspects of other biennials today, as well as the spectacular nature of many of these global exhibitions… People’s Biennial promotes an alternative selection process and devotes itself exclusively to work by artists who have never had significant exposure. The exhibition focuses on creative talent that does not subscribe to the conventional structures we are used to operating in, allowing us to discover work that is more immediate, spontaneous, even vulnerable, and offering a potential model for more community-based, grassroots exhibitions.”
People’s Biennial fuses concerns of the unknown, the peculiar, and the disregarded with a humorous critique of the art world’s fascination with biennial exhibitions, their specific politics and economies and the glitz and glamour that is usually attached to them. Hoffmann writes, “People’s Biennial calls explicit attention to how most so-called professional art is merely art that conforms to a set of conventions that most of us have accepted and internalized. Our biennial uses typical display techniques, but with a subversive intent: to set up a feeling of familiarity in the viewer that is then shattered by the unorthodox artworks on view. The goal is to present art as it is, and not as it so often seems in other biennials: distant, conceited, calculated.”
The Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College is the next and final stop of the exhibition tour.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Harrell Fletcher is an artist who has worked collaboratively and individually on socially engaged, interdisciplinary projects for more than fifteen years; his work has been exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe. He is a professor of art and social practice at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.
Jens Hoffmann is director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. He has curated over three dozen exhibitions since the late 1990s. He was director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London from 2003 to 2007. Hoffmann is an adjunct professor at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, a guest professor at the Nuova Accademia de Belle Arti, Milan and a faculty member at Goldsmith College, University of London. He is the co-curator for the 12th Istanbul Biennial.
The exhibition catalogue, People’s Biennial 2010: A Guide to America’s Most Amazing Artists, accompanies the exhibition and it chronicles the curatorial process of Fletcher’s and Hoffmann’s research for the exhibition. The publication includes a conversation between the curators, journalistic entries from the participating venues’ staff, statements from each of the selected artists, and extensive photographic documentation of the exhibition organization process, community-based events, selected artwork, and the resulting exhibition.
$35.00; ISBN: 9780916365837; Hardcover, 9.5 x 6.3 inches, 136 pages
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
Portland, Oregon September 10, 2010 – October 17, 2010
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art
Winston-Salem, North Carolina July 8, 2011 – September 18, 2011
Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College
Haverford, Pennsylvania January 27, 2012 – March 2, 2012
Dahl Arts Center
Rapid City, South Dakota January 14, 2011 – March 27, 2011
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale, Arizona October 15, 2011 – January 15, 2012
People’s Biennial is a traveling exhibition organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. Guest curators for the exhibition are Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann. The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible in part by a grant from The Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and The Cowles Charitable Trust; the ICI Board of Trustees; and ICI Benefactors Barbara and John Robinson.
Independent Curators International (ICI) is a non-profit headquartered in New York that produces exhibitions, events, publications, and training opportunities for audiences around the world. Working across disciplines and historical precedents, since 1975 the organization has connected emerging and established curators, artists, and institutions, to forge international networks and bring behind-the-scenes curatorial discourse to new publics.
In the last two years, 12 ICI exhibitions have been presented by 66 venues in 20 countries profiling the work of over 350 artists worldwide; 103 curators and artists from the U.S. and abroad have contributed to ICI’s talks programs, online journal, and conferences; and 80 emerging curators from 27 countries and 14 U.S. states have participated in the Curatorial Intensives, ICI’s short-course professional training programs. Through online resources and the creation of a new Curatorial Hub in New York, ICI’s fast-growing Curator’s Network provides members with up-to-date information on jobs and other curatorial opportunities, as well as access to articles, books, and round-table discussions addressing the latest curatorial debates.
For more information about the exhibition, tour, and accompanying publication, please contact Mandy Sa at 212.254.8200 x 121 or at mandy(at)curatorsintl.org.