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

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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
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: March 31–June 21, 2015
Northern Italian courts served as vital incubators for Renaissance artists, yet they are often overshadowed by larger cities such as Rome and Florence. Powerful rulers, discerning collectors, and taste-making humanists resided in these autonomous principalities. Renaissance Splendors of the Northern Italian Courts provides some much needed attention for these important artistic centers. Curated by Bryan Keene and Christopher Platts, the exhibition focuses on fifteenth-century... Full Review
December 10, 2015
Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, August 30, 2014–February 16, 2015
At the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) exhibition City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India, visitors found themselves standing face to face with the father of the Indian nation and one of history’s most fervent critics of Western material culture. But in Debanjan Roy’s India Shining V (2008), the earphone-wearing Mahatma was covered from head to toe in shiny red automotive paint and had his eyes fixed firmly on an iPod screen. The title of the piece makes direct... Full Review
December 10, 2015
Robin Jaffee Frank, ed.
Exh. cat. Hartford and New Haven: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 228 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Hardcover $50.00 (9780300189902)
Exhibition schedule: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, January 31–May 31, 2015; San Diego Museum of Art, July 11–October 13, 2015; Brooklyn Museum, November 20, 2015–March 13, 2016; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, May 11–September 11, 2016
As I walked through the Wadsworth Atheneum’s recent large-scale exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, I could not help but ask: Did we really need a show on Coney Island? What does it bring to the intellectual and aesthetic table, so to speak, that would be important or crucial now? In theory, there are a number of compelling reasons to mount this show: a Coney Island exhibition would span a broad historical period; pull from a diversity of objects and... Full Review
December 3, 2015
Kathryn Kanjo, Robert Storr, and Quincy Troupe
Exh. cat. San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2015. 204 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780934418744)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, September 20, 2014–January 4, 2015; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, May 16, 2015–Aug 2, 2015; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 12, 2015–January 24, 2016
When the artist Jack Whitten (b. 1939) refers to his studio as a laboratory, he is speaking literally, not metaphorically. Fridges and industrial freezers are stocked with muffin tins, pans, and molds of all kinds filled with acrylic paint. Covering the walls are tools of every shape and size—many of which are homemade concoctions. Whitten even looks the part of a scientist; his studio uniform consists of a paint-splattered white lab coat and sneakers he spray-painted silver. Although Whitten... Full Review
November 27, 2015
Los Angeles: MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, Los Angeles, January 21–March 29, 2015
In her recently published Other Planes of There: Selected Writings, artist Renée Green describes her 1999 exhibition Partially Buried in Three Parts as an exploration “of genealogical traces,” where overlapping investigations examine the ways people reinterpret their past to their “contemporary relations to a natal patria” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014, 275–276). The exhibition, for Green, was also a meditation on what site-specificity might mean when the concept of... Full Review
November 19, 2015