"A biennial is an opportunity for mass degradation for everyone." —Jonathan Raymond, 2007
Where to start?
By shoving the 9th Northwest Biennial into a crowded room while giving a large, lavish display to the illustrator of the kids' pop-science series The Way Things Work, is Tacoma Art Museum expressing ambivalence at having the word "art" in its name?
Does art—say, the paintings of Margie Livingston, Michael Brophy, and Denzil Hurley—become invisible when you've seen it too much?
Are old-fashioned photographs like Susan Seubert's ambrotypes of birds' nests "a respite from the deluge of garish, consumer-driven images" or just a retro fad?
Has anyone asked the designer of the stone wave at the museum's center whether he likes other art being installed on top of his all the time?
Since TAM curator Rock Hushka has been a Northwest fixture for more than a decade, might he finally stop enlisting out-of-town cocurators on this biennial business?
Has anyone else noticed that Hushka gets braver and braver (this year the show has only 24 artists, down from 43 in 2007 and 77 the time before)?
And has anyone else noticed that Hushka chooses unexpected artists more than any other area museum curator (this year's standouts: Linda Hutchins of the mesmerizing wall drawing made with her grandmother's silver spoon, and Victor Maldonado, whose monochrome glitter painting is the size of a Cadillac Escalade with mandala wheels made using a "Support Our Troops" sticker as a stamp)?
Why is there so much painting?
Despite everything, who else would like to thank Hushka for not being a slave to fashion?
What is the role of abstraction in socially turbulent times?
Why are 10 photographs by Michael Kenna included when zero would have sufficed?
How does this show compare to the survey of Vancouver, BC, artists that just opened in that city's main museum?
Why isn't Vancouver part of the Northwest Biennial? (How many times do I have to ask this?)
Will jewelry art always have to work harder just to get to the same place? Is that what you'd call a craft ceiling, or is jewelry art just generally not that interesting?
Could Jack Daws's gold counterfeit penny be displayed any better than in the museum's biggest, otherwise empty display case?
Can we call a moratorium on photographs made in natural-history museums without insulting the layered loveliness of Doug Keyes's?
If Robert C. Jones's vivid, occasionally lurid, gestural abstractions are the grandparents of this show, then why is everything else so anti-messy (aside from—thank you!—certain Gustonesque passages by Gala Bent and the unabashed improvised movements of Susan Robb's Toobs)?
If this show had more space, would it be less conservative, more bloody and gutsy? Could we have more video, installation, and sculpture, please?
Does W. Scott Trimble dream of minimalism or trail maintenance?
How would Hushka and cocurator Alison de Lima Greene have chosen differently if they'd known the economy would fall apart?
How could we use this show as a better engine for debate?
Who else is pleased to see a veritable vagina in that glass orchid/mossy trunk by Debora Moore?