“The Century of Tung Ch’i-ch’ang,” an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last fall and winter, was about a painter and calligrapher who was an imperial official in the last years of the Ming dynasty, some four centuries ago.[1] The 1993 Whitney Biennial, up until June 13, is about more than eighty artists who are working right now.[2] The odd thing is that the artists who are exhibiting at the Whitney are engaged in activities that I can barely make heads or tails of, while Tung Ch’i-ch’ang’s concerns are ones that make perfect sense to me. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the artists and the work that is in the Biennial this year; much of what David Ross, the director of the Whitney, and Elisabeth Sussman, the curator in charge of the show, have seen fit to include has already been exhibited in New York City’s...


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