People’s Biennial is an exhibition that examines the work of artists who operate outside the sanctioned mainstream art world. As such it recognizes a wide array of artistic expression present in many communities across the United States. Working in cities that are not considered the primary art capitals, the 36 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, and complex, minute marble-like sculptures carved out of soap bars. In covering even the little-known, the overlooked, the marginalized, and the excluded, the exhibition represents a real snapshot of creative practice in America today.
People’s Biennial also proposes an alternative to the standard contemporary art biennial, which mostly focuses on art from a few select cities (New York, Los Angeles, occasionally Chicago, Miami or San Francisco). It questions the often exclusionary and insular process of selecting art that has at times turned the spaces where art is exhibited into privileged havens seemingly detached from the realities of everyday life.
The exhibition is the result of a year of research into the creative communities of five American cities: Portland, Oregon; Rapid City, South Dakota; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Haverford, Pennsylvania. In each place, the curators collaborated with an art institution and participated in a series of public events and open-calls, meeting hundreds of artists, which led to the selection of the works on view.