New York

“The American Effect”

Whitney Museum of American Art

Taking a brief holiday from the Whitney’s declared mission to survey and promote American-made art, curator Lawrence Rinder offered up a gallery last summer to recent international artworks that explore the image of the post–cold war United States—a timely and quite brave gesture in a moment of “wars on terror,” “coalitions of the willing,” and pervasive self-censorship. To the extent that the United States now regards itself variously as beacon of freedom, misunderstood victim, and/or indispensable global policeman, the exhibition promised to provide a corrective; the fact that the US is regarded as an armored fortress and blinkered crusader by the rest of the world would not have been an unsalutary thing for an American audience to have to confront. Unfortunately, most of the art on view was hectoring and jejune and did little to advance the terms of that encounter.

Numerous photographic

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