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

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José Luis Barrios and Alesha Mercado Mercado
Exh. cat. Mexico City: MUAC-UNAM, 2014. 48 pp. Paper MXN 120.00 (6070261251)
Exhibition schedule: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, November 22, 2014–April 5, 2015
The excellent exhibition El derrumbe de la estatua: hacia una crítica del arte público (1952–2014) (The Falling of the Statue: Toward a Critique of Public Art [1952–2014]) examined developments and shifts in public art practice in Mexico across the last half-century. As the title of the show suggests, the driving premise was to dismantle or topple its traditional definitions. Skillfully curated by José Luis Barrios and Alesha Mercado, the exhibition featured sculptures, models... Full Review
February 18, 2016
Emily Braun and Rebecca Rabinow, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. 392 pp.; 280 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300208078)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 20, 2014–February 16, 2015
Cubism constitutes one of the greatest revolutions in the history of Western art, on a par with the one launched at the beginning of the fifteenth century by two other young artists, in another booming economic and cultural center permitting radical innovations within the realms of the arts and sciences—though Florence, at the time that Filippo Brunelleschi and Donatello reached their first heights in the early quattrocento, was an undoubtedly quieter place than was early twentieth-century... Full Review
February 11, 2016
Mark Rosenthal, ed.
Exh. cat. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 2015. 248 pp.; 125 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300211603)
Exhibition schedule: Detroit Institute of Arts, March 15–July 12, 2015
The story told through this exhibition begins and ends in the Garden Court of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) where in 1932 the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera executed a monumental set of wall paintings to celebrate the city’s industrial spirit against the backdrop of the devastating Great Depression. Just months before the arrival of the muralist and his wife, Frida Kahlo, the city had considered closing the museum and selling its artworks, but this commission was part of a larger set of... Full Review
February 4, 2016
David Blayney Brown, Amy Concannon, and Sam Smiles, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles and London: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with Tate Publishing, 2014. 256 pp.; 130 color ills. Cloth $49.95 (9781606064276)
Exhibition schedule: Tate Britain, London, September 10, 2014–January 25, 2015 (under the title Late Turner: Painting Set Free); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, February 24–May 24, 2015; de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, June 20–September 20, 2015; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, October 31, 2015–January 31, 2016
J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free is the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s works produced from 1835 to 1851, from the time he was sixty years old until his death at seventy-six—the period when Turner was consciously shaping his legacy and producing the mature oils and watercolors that have so heavily influenced modern art concerned with light and color. Sam Smiles, Tate Research Fellow and associate professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter, took... Full Review
February 4, 2016
Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, October 11, 2014–April 26, 2015
Unlike many of Ann Hamilton’s exhibitions with their patient interest in the singular object or action accumulated as increment, the common S E N S E contains a disorienting array of objects, actions, and modes of address: flatbed scans of dead animals printed in multiples on newsprint, hung salon-style; artifacts such as books and toys that document the ubiquity of animal imagery in various cultures’ childhood imaginaries; wool blankets hung low on wooden rods that one is invited to... Full Review
January 21, 2016
National Art Museum of Ukraine, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev, January 23–April 26, 2015
The Great Purge carried out by the Stalinist authorities between 1936 and 1938 resulted in a widespread hunt for so-called enemies of the people. The People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, the secret police organization best known by its Soviet acronym, NKVD, persecuted hundreds of thousands of individuals for their alleged involvement in anti-Soviet activities. The reverberations of the purge were felt throughout the Soviet Union. Museum personnel were instructed to collect the works of... Full Review
January 21, 2016
Massimiliano Gioni
Exh. cat. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with New Museum, 2014. 224 pp.; 140 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780847844562)
Exhibition schedule: New Museum, New York, October 29, 2014–February 1, 2015
Very few artists become targets of a public controversy or scandal over a work of art. But for those who do find themselves in such a predicament, it can have a lasting impact on their careers. In this media-dominated age, a public outcry over someone’s art usually becomes an identifying marker for that artist, if not of the artist’s own identity. And if the incident occurs in one’s formative years, then the artist faces an especially arduous task of ensuring that her or his work from then on... Full Review
January 14, 2016
Barry Bergdoll, Carlos Comas, Jorge Francisco Liernur, and Patricio del Real, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015. 320 pp.; 559 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780870709630)
In 1955, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held a show entitled Latin American Architecture since 1945 that defined the parameters of how modern architecture in Latin America would be read. In the accompanying catalogue, curator Henry Russell-Hitchcock highlighted important points concerning architecture produced over the past decade in the region, addressing its protagonists, relationship to history and the visual arts, construction and use of reinforced concrete, and influences... Full Review
January 7, 2016
San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, January 23–April 19, 2015
A black, square Sony Trinitron TV. Headphones. On stage, a woman in her thirties holds a mic. Three men watch from a table. “The only smile in the history of art that we know is the Mona Lisa’s,” she says, “and we all know what kind of smile is that: it’s the smile that you put on when you wake up and your parents have shaved your eyebrows” (my transcription). Kasia Fudakowski’s Smile (2011) occupies a central space in the first gallery of Laugh-in: Art, Comedy, Performance at... Full Review
January 7, 2016
Amelia Barikin, Tristan Garcia, and Emma Lavigne
Exh. cat. Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2014. 248 pp.; 770 color ills.; 160 b/w ills. Paper $49.95 (9783777422497)
Exhibition schedule: Centre Pompidou, Paris, September 25, 2013–January 6, 2014; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, April 11–July 13, 2014; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, November 23, 2014–March 8, 2015
Upon entering the Los Angeles iteration of French artist Pierre Huyghe’s touring mid-career retrospective, curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) by Jarrett Gregory, viewers were given two things. The first was an introduction in the form of a performative artwork titled Name Announcer (2011). A bow-tied gentleman (at least it was a man every time I visited) asked your name and then would repeat whatever you said in a booming, officious... Full Review
December 23, 2015