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

Browse Recent Exhibition Reviews

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
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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
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Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, June 25, 2021–March 6, 2022
In the fractured social landscape of the United States, as we move into 2022, questions of identity haunt us. Identity politics, individual choice, the boundaries of the body and the state are all contested and unstable. This terrain of instability, which can feel like a collapse of the aesthetic projects of both modernism and postmodernism, is an opportune moment for investigating the continued significance of portraiture. Left Side Right Side, at Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, adroitly gathered works in a variety of media that address and contest the meaning and use of the portrait in the twentieth and… Full Review
May 17, 2022
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Paul Martineau
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2020. 256 pp.; 199 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781606066751)
The spare beauty and formal patterning of succulents and magnolia blossoms are hallmarks of Imogen Cunningham’s most celebrated photographs. But most fascinating in Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective, recently on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), was the combination of clever form and psychological intensity in her portraits and nudes. Cunningham’s high-contrast close-up of Martha Graham from 1931 highlights the inward focus of the dancer’s mind as equal in importance to the expressive physical gestures she performs. The striking image of Graham, eyes closed with a neutral expression, conveys intense concentration in the act of translating emotion into… Full Review
May 9, 2022
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Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, July 2021–March 2022
A row of framed black-and-white photographs of artist Judy Baca hang on a hot-pink wall. Titled Judith F. Baca as La Pachuca (1976), this series depicts Baca styled as a “Pachuca,” a Mexican American female stereotype from the 1950s. In the photos, Baca wears a white, collared, button-up top, with a pack of Marlboros tucked into the cuff of her rolled-up sleeve. Her dark hair is teased, her painted eyebrows are dramatically arched, her eyeliner winged, her lips outlined, and a scarf is knotted around her neck. In each photograph, she puffs on a cigarette poised between long-nailed fingers, with… Full Review
April 20, 2022
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Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England, November 20, 2021–May 8, 2022
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has flung open its doors following the cultural doldrums that marked the past year with a lavish exhibition that is striking for both its narrative and content. Visitors who have followed every Fabergé display and publication since the landmark 1977 blockbuster at the V&A marking the queen’s silver jubilee, and even those most familiar with the latest scholarship, are challenged from the threshold of the gallery’s enfilade. Surprisingly, there is not an imperial egg in sight when we first enter. Instead, we are greeted by miniature models of the Russian imperial regalia, the diamond-set… Full Review
March 28, 2022
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Exh. cat. Santa Fe, NM: IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and Radius Books, 2021. 240 pp.; 160 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781942185901)
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM, August 20, 2021–Sun, January 23, 2022
August 2021 saw the opening of Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico—a leading art venue in the global contemporary Native art scene. The show was an unprecedented response by fifty-four Indigenous artists (twenty of them in the APY Art Collective, an Australian Indigenous group) to the impact on Native peoples and the environment of the nearly seventy-six years of the Atomic Age. The 3,500-square-foot exhibition, spread out over four galleries, is an interdisciplinary mixture of forms and genres, and includes sculpture, video installation, photography, collage, glasswork, metalwork… Full Review
March 23, 2022
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Katherine Jentleson
Exh. cat. New York: DelMonico Books, 2021. 276 pp.; 283 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9781636810287)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, September 3, 2021–January 9, 2022; Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH, March 19–July 10, 2022
In the thirty-six years between the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980 (1982) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift (2018), Black vernacular art from the southern United States became securely established within the “canon” of American art. Nellie May Rowe (1900–1982) was an abiding presence in these and other definitive exhibitions of that era. Viewers embraced her as a prolific visual poet who elevated the intimacies of domestic life to an angelic hierarchy of sublime memories, insightful portraiture, tenderly empathic tributes and elegies, and… Full Review
March 21, 2022
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Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, November 5, 2021–January 30, 2022
Jane Jin Kaisen: Parallax Conjunctures, the first solo exhibition in the United States by the South Korean–born visual artist and filmmaker (Danish, b. 1980), presented three media works that uncover repressed histories of postwar Korea and its diaspora. Two video installations, The Woman, the Orphan, and the Tiger (2010) and Sweeping the Forest Floor (2020), were presented on either side of the exhibition hall, and a photographic installation Apertures | Specters | Rifts (2016) was mounted in the center. Comprising an array of various historical references, political innuendos, and temporalities spanning the past hundred years, each work crafted a narrative… Full Review
March 16, 2022
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Rachel McGarry
Exh. cat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021. 160 pp.; 81 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9781517910518)
Minneapolis Institute of Art, October 16, 2021–June 26, 2022
Visitors facing the entrance to Envisioning Evil: “The Nazi Drawings” by Mauricio Lasansky are offered only one glimpse of what they can expect if they choose to enter: a decorated Nazi officer raises his arm in a Hitler salute while blood-like drops fall from his wrist and smear the page. On his head is a terrifying bestial skull that appears both fixed and projected on the man’s scalp. A close look reveals smudges, partial erasures, hard pencil strokes, and tears to the paper. This work is steeped in rage. Mauricio Lasansky’s (1914–2012) torment is on full display upon entering the… Full Review
March 14, 2022
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