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

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Uri McMillan
New York: NYU Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 6 color ills.; 38 b/w ills. Paperback $29.00 (9781479852475)
In the classic art-historical telling, performance art was birthed around 1910 in Italy by a group of men who incited audience riots with ideological and aesthetic provocations at their Futurist serata, or evenings. Fast-forward to the 1950s, and body-based art emerges as one of several tactics to dematerialize the art object and resist easy commodification of one’s artistic endeavors—a concern primarily for those testing the boundaries of, rather than fighting for access to, the... Full Review
February 7, 2018
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Jennifer Liese, ed.
Brooklyn: Paper Monument, 2016. 544 pp.; 8 b/w ills. Paper $28.00 (9780979757587)
In Social Medium: Artists Writing, 2000–2015, Jennifer Liese brings together seventy-five texts by contemporary artists working in diverse media, including such well-known practitioners as Mira Schor, Xu Bing, Coco Fusco, Ryan Trecartin, Adrian Piper, and Mike Kelley. As becomes clear in the introduction, Liese—the director of the Writing Center at Rhode Island School of Design—aims to show that artists in the twenty-first century are not only writing more but also expanding the... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Kathleen Curran
Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2016. 256 pp.; 119 b/w ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9781606064788)
Despite the growth of museum-history scholarship in recent decades, there is still much to learn about museums’ origins and development. Kathleen Curran’s skillfully researched and richly illustrated book is a stimulating contribution to this field, especially regarding collections and display practices among the first generation of major American art museums as they matured. These include the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (both founded in... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. 400 pp.; 365 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9781588395641)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 12, 2015–January 24, 2016
Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, along with its corresponding exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a much-needed and long sought-after addition to the corpus of Egyptological studies. With the exception of such classic treatises as Wolfram Grajetzki’s The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: History, Archaeology and Society (London: Duckworth Egyptology, 2006) and the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Pharaohs and Mortals: Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Daniel Magaziner
New African Histories. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016. 376 pp.; 92 ills. Paperback $34.95 (9780821422526)
The Art of Life in South Africa is not an art-history book, but every page addresses both art and history. Magaziner, a historian, uses art education in apartheid-era South Africa as a window into the experience of living in a repressive state, and the complicated, nuanced ways in which trainees and teachers adapted to, and thrived in spite of, that state. Art making is an act of self-expression, an intervention to make the world more beautiful, which seems wholly incongruous with... Full Review
February 5, 2018
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Lynne Zelevansky, Elizabeth Sussman, James Rondeau, Donna De Salvo, and Anna Katherine Brodbeck
Exh. cat. New York: Prestel, 2016. 320 pp.; 291 color ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9783791355221)
Carnegie Museum of Art, October 1, 2016–January 2, 2017; Art Institute of Chicago, February 18–May 7, 2017; Whitney Museum of American Art, July 14–October 1, 2017
As installed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium provided a salient comment on the artist who perhaps best represents the new canon of twentieth-century Latin American art. This canon is grounded in three pillars of Oiticica’s work: abstraction, participation, and conceptualism. I have previously argued that in the Global North this canon was first consolidated by Héctor Olea and Mari Carmen Ramírez’s seminal exhibition Heterotopías /... Full Review
February 5, 2018
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Geoffrey Batchen
Ed. Philomena Mariani. New York: Prestel, 2016. 200 pp.; 180 color ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9783791355047)
There has been a spate of recent exhibitions identifying and reflecting upon a turn in photographic practice: a turn toward the materiality of the photograph and the full embrace of its unique processes of “capture.” These exhibitions, and the catalogue texts that supplement them, often seize on the notion of photography’s essence as indexical. Photography’s material structure and process of image making are said to be determined by their causal relationship to the world. Their indexical... Full Review
February 5, 2018
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Rocío Aranda-Alvarado
Eds. Irene Hofmann and Kathleen E. Ash-Milby. Exh. cat. Santa Fe: SITE Santa Fe, 2016. 160 pp.; 70 color ills. $35.00 (9780985660239)
SITE Santa Fe, July 16, 2016–January 8, 2017
I remember thinking sometime around 2010, when SITE Santa Fe presented The Dissolve, that it seemed odd how much the site—Santa Fe, or geography more broadly—mattered so little in that year, or any other prior year’s, biennial. Rather, The Dissolve was about media (technologies of moving images) and not about place. When Irene Hofmann stepped in as... Full Review
February 2, 2018
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Julie Widholm and Kristine Stiles, eds.
Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2015. 116 pp. Hardcover $35.00 (9780996211611)
The second and final showing of Kathryn Andrews: Run for President closed at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in early January 2017. When I visited, I saw wall-sized photomurals of past presidential publicity gambits—often palpably raced ones—framing sculptures with mirror-polished steel surfaces, sagging balloons, and memorabilia from blockbuster movies including Spiderman, The Matrix, and Lethal Weapon. There was also clown-related symbolism, particularly... Full Review
February 2, 2018
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Annett Busch and Anselm Franke, eds.
Exh. cat. Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2015. 220 pp.; 50 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $29.00 (9788364177255)
Exhibition schedule: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, September 19–November 24, 2013; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, June 12–August 23, 2015
After Year Zero: Geographies of Collaboration—a book that puts the question of a starting point at its heart—wears a black-on-black cover. The black title is pressed in to the book’s black surface, barely discernible save for its slight gloss. On the back of the book, a large circle ringed in that same glossy black looms over a blackened oval. Riffs on these shapes appear in the book’s interior to separate the sections; they appear as white against black, reconfigured, layered, and... Full Review
February 1, 2018
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