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

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Sarah Kennel, ed.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and Chicago: National Gallery of Art, Washington and University of Chicago Press, 2013. 280 pp.; 110 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth (9780226092782)
Exhibition schedule: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 29, 2013‒January 5, 2014; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 27‒May 4, 2014; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 15–September 14, 2014
With a decade of solo exhibitions devoted to the work of nineteenth-century photographers Édouard Baldus (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994), Gustave Le Gray (Bibliothèque nationale de France and J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), and Roger Fenton (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), French and American museums succeeded in demonstrating that a focus on individual oeuvre, rather than period style, lent some much needed scholarly substance to the early history of photography. Given his significance to... Full Review
March 19, 2015
Clare Elliott
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Foundation, Inc., 2013. 112 pp.; 60 color ills. Paper $60.00 (9780300189735)
Exhibition schedule: Menil Collection, Houston, April 19–August 18, 2013; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, September 29, 2013–January 5, 2014; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, Purchase, February 16–May 11, 2014; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, June 11–September 14, 2014
No matter what the relationship between art and medicine, I would rather keep it on the aesthetic plain. . . . Why don’t you show your paintings and the thesis in a medical hospital? —Betty Parsons, letter to Forrest Bess, 1958 Female patron: The paintings up there are amazing! Male patron: Did you look at the stuff in the middle? Female patron: No. Male patron: Super weird. —exchange in Berkeley Art Museum gift shop, September 2014 Forrest... Full Review
March 5, 2015
James David Draper and Edouard Papet
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2014. 376 pp.; 350 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300204315)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 10–May 26, 2014; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, June 23–September 28, 2014
As signaled by its title, visitors to the exhibition The Passions of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux learned that the artist (1827–1875) had many: an obsession for art at a young age; an enthusiasm for portraiture; a desire for major government-sponsored commissions; and fervor for work. His was also a life full of passions unrealized, as he died from pancreatic cancer at the age of forty-eight. Yet Carpeaux’s impact on nineteenth-century sculpture was significant. His works fill museums and... Full Review
March 5, 2015
Jane Block and Ellen W. Lee, eds.
Exh. cat. New Haven and Indianapolis: Yale University Press in association with Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2014. 256 pp.; 105 color ills.; 3 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300190847)
Exhibition schedule: ING Cultural Centre, Brussels, February 19‒May 18, 2014 (under the title TO THE POINT—The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886‒1904); Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, June 15‒September 17, 2014
“While George Seurat was the founder of the Neo-Impressionist movement, he was not the first to create portraits in the style”: so announces an initial wall text for Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886–1904 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, curated by Ellen W. Lee and Jane Block. These words accompany a line of four portraits (one by Vincent van Gogh, two by Albert Dubois-Pillets, and one by Achille Laugé), which in turn reveal exciting curatorial minds at work—Face... Full Review
February 26, 2015
Chris Melissinos and Patrick O'Rourke
Exh. cat. New York: Welcome Books, 2012. 216 pp.; 100 ills. Cloth $40.00 (9781599621104)
Exhibition schedule: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, March 16–September 30, 2012; Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, October 24, 2012–January 13, 2013; EMP Museum, Seattle, February 16–May 13, 2013; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, June 16–September 29, 2013; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, October 25, 2013–January 19, 2014; Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, February 15–May 18, 2014; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, June 19–September 28, 2014; Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, October 25, 2014–January 18, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, February 13–May 10, 2015; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, June 6–September 13, 2015; Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, Miami, October 9–January 25, 2016
The Art of Video Games exhibition raises an intriguing question: How should a curator go about making the argument that a medium long associated with mass culture deserves to be taken seriously as an art form? Considering the possible approaches to such a situation, we can look to precedents—cinema provides an obvious analogue. Cinema’s initial tentative steps into the space of the museum during the first half of the twentieth century were governed by a conservative philosophy of... Full Review
February 19, 2015
Carol S. Eliel
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2014. 136 pp.; 108 color ills.; 13 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9783791353548)
Exhibition schedule: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, June 8–September 14, 2014; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, October 8–December 21, 2014
It is fitting that the first major retrospective of John Altoon’s work takes place in his hometown, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), since the show’s assembly necessitated considerable sleuthing by curator Carol S. Eliel, often with the aid of Altoon’s Los Angeles-based contemporaries. John Altoon, a compact show featuring eighteen works on canvas and fifty on paper or board, fills five galleries of LACMA’s Broad Contemporary Art Museum and offers the first... Full Review
February 19, 2015
Matthew S. Witkovsky, ed.
Exh. cat. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2014. 224 pp.; 200 ills. Paper $50.00 (9780300203929)
Exhibition schedule: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, June 7–September 14, 2014; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, November 11, 2014–March 22, 2015; Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid, September 15–November 29, 2015
For many, the high point of this retrospective of Josef Koudelka’s work will be the series of images of the Soviet invasion of Prague in August of 1968. The photographer had just returned to the city from a trip photographing Roma communities when the seven-day invasion began. Weaving in and among the crowds of protestors, his camera loaded with yards of East German movie film, he managed to capture the fragile power of such instances of collective heroism. Images of conflict between the... Full Review
February 12, 2015
Anne M. Lyden
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2014. 228 pp.; 120 color ills.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781606061558)
Exhibition schedule: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, February 4–June 8, 2014
The exhibition A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography, along with curator Anne M. Lyden’s fine catalogue of the same name, bring together the remarkable photography collections of the Royal Collection, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the National Media Museum in Bradford, England, as well as one notable photograph from a private collection. The exhibition and in particular the catalogue’s essays are insightful and thought-provoking, raising a number of fascinating issues about... Full Review
February 12, 2015
Matthew H. Robb and Jill D’Alessandro
Exh. cat. San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2014. 96 pp. Paper $19.95
Exhibition schedule: de Young Museum, San Francisco, California, May 3, 2014–January 4, 2015
Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art from the Weisel Family Collection elegantly showcases a recent donation gifted to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It brings Native art into the spotlight alongside the institution’s diverse holdings from its permanent collection, and celebrates the beauty of objects often unknown to both the general art museumgoer and established art connoisseur. The exhibition features a large selection of ceramic works and textiles by Native artists... Full Review
February 12, 2015
Just beyond the main galleries of the Art of the Americas Building at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a small room featuring eight large painting by Sam Doyle (1906–1985). The paintings are created from everyday materials, making them distinct from the oil paintings, art deco objects, and mid-century modern furniture in the neighboring galleries. Using house paint on found wood and metal to create figurative and text-based paintings, Doyle portrayed famous African American... Full Review
February 5, 2015