Every visual artist understands well that the basis of their life's work is fleshing out the details of their own little universe and in doing so offering their version of the "truth." Some artists take "their own little universe" quite literally and invent wholly unique vocabularies suggesting worlds quite different from our own. The practice is not new (think Bosch, Blake, Darger, etc.), but there's a concentration of such visions currently on view at the Whitney titled Remote Viewing: Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and Drawing.
Included in the exhibition are Franz Ackermann, Steve DiBenedetto, Carroll Dunham, Ati Maier, Julie Mehretu, Matthew Ritchie, Alexander Ross (image above is by Ross, but not in this exhibition), and Terry Winters. I've been watching as a few of these artists developed their worlds over the years (Ross, Ritchie, and Mehretu are personal favorites...Dunham and Winters are gods), so I had a blast at this exhibition. (Unfortunately, the museum doesn't have any good images of the work on their website, so the following are simply samples by these artists):
Carroll Dunham, Beautiful Dirt Valley, 1997, Mixed Media on linen, 79" x 69'
In all honesty, some of the work assembled for this show was a bit disappointing for me. I love most of these artists, and I wanted a bigger, better banquet of their work. Most were represented by paintings and a few drawings, but many of the drawings struck me as filler, with the exception being the wonderful drawings by Dunham.
My overall favorite installation was Ritchie's. It best represented what his project is about and the potential it has.
Matthew Ritchie, The First Sea, 2003, Oil and marker on canvas, 99" x 110"
My least favorite, very disappointingly, was Winters'. With so many wonderful paintings by him, those were they best they could get for the show? Here's a great one by him that UBS owns, that's not in the show (unless I missed it somehow):
Terry Winters, Image Location (correct title?) Oil, alkyd resin, mica, graphite on linen, 96" x 120"
One of the other criticisms of the exhibition I have is that other than Ross (and to some degree Dunham) overall the other artists rely on lots of information to convey their "invented world," as if only via a multitude of messy marks that vision could be convincing (this is an oversimplification, I know, but stay with me...I do have a point). This may seem to contradict my opening observation that the essence here is detail, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. It would be nice to see a world that's just as compelling and complex but that's not as chaotic. Perhaps that's not possible, I don't know, but by the end of this exhibition I was ready to stare at a blank wall for a while.