Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

Browse Recent Reviews

Defining the art of a region in the twenty-first century is a thorny and onerous task. Like many professionals in the age of telecommuting, gig work, and academic precarity, artists relocate often. Similarly, influences stem from far and wide, making the old art historical distinctions of style as defined by geographical proximity difficult to apply in this day and age. The Regional, an exhibition jointly organized by Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) and Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, attempts to provide a snapshot of the art of today in the American Midwest. The museum directors’… Full Review
June 28, 2022
Thumbnail
Andreas Beyer, et al.
Exh. cat. Basel: Foundation Beyeler, 2021. 400 pp.; 300 color ills. Cloth CHF72.00 (9783775746571)
In the latter part of 2021, the Beyeler Foundation in Basel mounted the most important retrospective exhibition on Goya in recent decades. Curated by Martin Schwander—who is also the editor of the catalog—and developed by Isabela Mora and Sam Keller in collaboration with the Prado Museum, it gathered 181 Goya works, including seventy-seven paintings, fifty-three prints, and fifty-one drawings. It was a unique opportunity for those able to attend the fully booked exhibition, since many of the works have rarely been shown outside of Spain, and many come from private collections. This is the first retrospective exhibition of Goya’s work… Full Review
June 24, 2022
Thumbnail
Kristoffer Neville
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019. 256 pp.; 15 color ills.; 65 b/w ills.; 82 ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271082257)
In the opening pages of his recent survey of early modern Scandinavian art and architecture, Kristoffer Neville argues that “the Danish and Swedish courts were fully integrated in Central European culture and played leading roles in the larger region from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century” (6). Rather than emphasize the uniqueness of Scandinavian artistic production in this period, Neville’s project is to excavate an often overlooked unity between closely related territories that have undergone an artificial separation in the writing of German, Danish, and Swedish national art histories. By revealing the impact of the Scandinavian monarchies in the German-speaking… Full Review
June 21, 2022
Thumbnail
April 9, 2022–July 17, 2022, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA
One might expect an exhibition focused on ten years of an artist’s practice to present a narrow slice of work, a partial—unsatisfying, even—picture of a lifelong creative evolution. Such a focus may seem best presented in book form. Yet Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (co-organized by the Menil Collection in Houston) exemplifies how a focused art historical examination of a particular portion of an artist’s career can make a successful exhibition. Saint Phalle is perhaps an especially noteworthy subject for such a presentation—over the course of a decade, changes in… Full Review
June 17, 2022
Thumbnail
Mark McDonald
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021. 320 pp.; 166 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781588397140)
There can be a tendency to portray Francisco Goya—frequently celebrated as the last of the old masters and the first of the moderns—as an artist existing outside of time. Goya’s Graphic Imagination firmly situates Goya in his artistic and cultural milieu while simultaneously teaching us to look closely and marvel anew at the boundless imagination and technical prowess of his graphic production. The catalog’s associated exhibition (which this author did not see) drew from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s remarkable holdings of Goya’s graphic work with supplemental loans from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, New… Full Review
June 15, 2022
Thumbnail
Craig Staff
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021. 200 pp.; 20 color ills. Cloth $49.00 (9781789382884)
Painting, History and Meaning is an ambitious book that seeks to redress conventional understandings of temporality within the study of contemporary painting. Craig Staff takes his “interpretative framework” (4) from the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s notion that painting occupies several “sites of time” simultaneously. Staff seeks neither to replicate the arbitrary attitude to temporality apparent in some works of postmodern eclecticism nor to reduce painting to the linear history of progress inherent in modernism and modernist criticism. His approach is rather to construct an alternative that opens up the differences in time inherent in the object that is the painting. Drawing… Full Review
June 9, 2022
Thumbnail
Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss
Getty Research Institute, 2021. 256 pp.; 80 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. Paper $60.00 (9781606067307)
Contrary to the legal maxim that there were no enslaved people in France, during the reign of Louis XIV acts of enslavement were visualized in an array of artistic media. For instance, Charles Le Brun’s design for the sculptural ornamentation of the stern of the flagship Royal Louis (ca. 1680) features a gilded bas-relief of the king in the guise of a Roman conqueror, flanked by two manacled figures whose characteristic topknot and turban respectively identify them as Turcs; beyond allegory, this image invokes a real practice of enslavement. Art historian Meredith Martin and historian Gillian Weiss confront the… Full Review
May 31, 2022
Thumbnail
Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022. 200 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $27.40 (9780226802060)
Much of the literature engaging the repatriation of museum collections has focused on claims made by postcolonial nation-states, or by Indigenous communities in settler-colonial contexts such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Latin America, specifically, has been relatively absent from these debates because of the enduring legacies of Indigenism as a key politics of nation making, justifying the appropriation of Indigenous cultural production in favor of the nation. The very few instances of repatriation in the region have been negotiated between specific museums and private collectors, who have returned objects to countries of origin, rather than through… Full Review
May 26, 2022
Thumbnail
Natalia Majluf
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2021. 288 pp. Cloth $50.00 (9781477324080)
In recent decades scholars of Latin American cultures have extensively examined the complexities of nation building from multiple disciplinary viewpoints. Natalia Majluf’s Inventing Indigenism: Francisco Laso’s Image of Modern Peru expands this discussion, focusing on Peru as an emerging nation tangled within the development of Indigeneity. She establishes a core premise of the book with the opening statement: “Throughout this book the term Indian refers fundamentally to the object of indigenist discourse, an abstraction that must be distinguished from the indigenous populations that the term purportedly designates” (n.p.). Subsequent pages present a broad range of information and theoretical perspectives on… Full Review
May 24, 2022
Thumbnail
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2021. 352 pp.; 435 ills. Cloth (9781633451070)
November 21, 2021–March 12, 2022
Kunstmuseum Basel, March 20–June 20, 2021; Tate Modern, London, July 15–October 17, 2021; Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 21, 2021–March 12, 2022
Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction was an exhilarating and expansive exhibition (and accompanying catalog) of the artist’s uniquely syncretic practice. Organized by Anne Umland (Museum of Modern Art), Walburga Krupp (independent curator), Eva Reifert (Kunstmuseum Basel), and Natalia Sidlina (Tate Modern), the project covers Taeuber-Arp’s nearly thirty-year career between World War I and World War II. As installed at MoMA, the exhibition was a knockout. It offered a thrilling vision of the artist’s work at every stage of her career—a presentation strikingly emancipated from hierarchies of patriarchy and media. The most surprising decision was the almost total exclusion of works by… Full Review
May 19, 2022
Thumbnail