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

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San Francisco: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in association with San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2014.
Exhibition schedule: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, February 21–June 29, 2014
Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa presents work by twenty-three South African artists and artistic collaborators. The several dozen works in the exhibition span sixty years worth of production in media ranging from photography and performance documentation to installation, print, and drawing. The exhibition places contemporary South African artists in conversation with several apartheid-era photographers including Ian Berry, Ernest Cole, and David Goldblatt.... Full Review
October 17, 2014
Mary Morton
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: 2014. 180 pp.; 102 ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780894683862)
Exhibition schedule: Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Rome, October 23, 2013–February 23, 2014; Legion of Honor, San Francisco, March 29–August 3, 2014; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, September 3, 2014–January 4, 2015; Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo, February 7–May 24, 2015; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, October 1, 2015–January 10, 2016
Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art is an exhibition of small pictures. By the same token, it is an exhibition about small pictures. Scale matters. Only, for it to matter, for it to develop as an orientation, we have first to break with the usual connotations that accrue to it as a criterion of judgment. Small pictures have their way of drawing us in, of revealing different kinds of relations of people to things; they ask that we view them up close,... Full Review
October 8, 2014
Anne Ellegood and Johanna Burton
Exh. cat. New York and Los Angeles: Prestel in association with Hammer Museum, 2014. 288 pp.; 174 color ills.; 63 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9783791353425)
Exhibition schedule: Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 9–May 18, 2014
An ambitious statement about American art, Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology examines the intersection of institutional critique, a practice entailing a structural analysis of museums and the art market, and appropriation, a mechanism of recontextualizing found images and ideas. Curators Anne Ellegood and Johanna Burton show that the two, despite having originated from distinct strategies of practice and consecutive historical periods (the 1970s and 1980s), have... Full Review
October 3, 2014
Anne Umland, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2013. 256 pp.; 194 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Paper $50.00 (9780870788985)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 28, 2013–January 12, 2014; Menil Collection, Houston, February 14–June 1, 2014; Art Institute of Chicago, June 29–October 12, 2014
Exhibition schedule: Menil Collection, Houston, February 14–July 13, 2014
The work of the painter René Magritte is well known, if not as art, then at least as image. Magritte himself claimed that looking at a reproduction of his works was every bit as good as looking at a painting. The exhibition Magritte: Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 sets out to disprove this notion, foregrounding the materiality of Magritte’s work alongside his conceptual preoccupations. Foremost among those preoccupations is the resistance—even refusal—of Magritte’s painted objects... Full Review
October 3, 2014
Starr Figura, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 248 pp.; 222 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780870709050)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 8–June 8, 2014
Considering Paul Gauguin’s notable impact on the development of modern art, it seems remarkable that Gauguin: Metamorphoses is his first monographic exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and only the second major presentation of his art in New York since 1959. Perhaps even more surprising, this show, organized by Starr Figura, the Phyllis Ann and Walter Borten Associate Curator, with Lotte Johnson, curatorial assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, foregoes the expected focus on... Full Review
September 24, 2014
Richard Benefield, Lawrence Weschler, Sarah Howgate, and David Hockney
Exh. cat. New York and San Francisco: Del Monico Books and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2013. 228 pp.; 404 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9783791353340)
Exhibition schedule: de Young Museum, San Francisco, October 26, 2013–January 20, 2014
What is an exhibition for? What can it produce? In its earliest forms in the middle of the eighteenth century—the Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the exhibiting societies of London—the exhibition was a collective affair, organized among artists: a form of self-assessment and public presentation mediating between a guild of merchant craftsmen and the unstable fractions within the public that might provide a market for those artists’ work. In this anxious context the emergence... Full Review
September 24, 2014
Emily Ballew Neff and Kaylin H. Weber
Exh. cat. Houston and New Haven: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in association with Yale University Press, 2014. 272 pp.; 238 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300196467)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, October 6, 2013–January 20, 2014
Not too many years ago, the story of American art as characterized in survey courses and other summary narratives was told in an apologetic tone. How could one make a case for the importance or singularity of a nation’s output before there was a nation and in the face of a European model then characterized as a teleological progression of ever-increasing artistic greatness? John Singleton Copley’s (1738–1815) story was frequently presented as the pinnacle of colonial uncertainty and... Full Review
August 28, 2014
Carter E. Foster
Exh. cat. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2013. 256 pp.; 386 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300181494)
Exhibition schedule: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 23–October 6, 2013; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, November 17, 2013–February 16, 2014; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, March 13–June 20, 2014
At the most superficial level, Edward Hopper’s paintings represent modern American life as a series of moments oscillating along a continuum between solitude and desolation via loneliness, isolation, and alienation and back again. As the drawings, paintings, prints, and ephemera included in Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) attest, those oscillations can generate a curious sense of longing that endures well after one departs the gallery spaces. The... Full Review
August 21, 2014
Matthew McLendon, Anne Collins Goodyear, Dan Cameron, and Matthew Ritchie
Exh. cat. New York and Sarasota: Scala Arts Publishers in association with John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 2013. 144 pp.; 100 color ills. Paper (9781857598773)
Exhibition schedule: John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, January 31–May 4, 2014
Twenty-first-century media is marked by the rise of social networks and the concomitant tools to analyze and manipulate the data produced and transmitted through those networks. The work of R. Luke DuBois has emerged within this milieu, and his explorations of mass media and popular culture amid a world of unprecedented shared cultural production and exponentially proliferating data have provided a rich body of work over a relatively short period of time. In a span of just over a decade,... Full Review
August 21, 2014
Arne Glimcher, Richard Tuttle, and Richard Tobin
Exh. cat. Taos: Harwood Museum of Art, 2012. 68 pp.; 42 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780615572093)
Exhibition schedule: Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, February 25–Sunday, June 17, 2012; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, January 26–May 12, 2013 (under the title Agnes Martin: The New York–Taos Connection [1947–1957]); University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, September 13–December 14, 2013
Agnes Martin: Before the Grid offered a rare opportunity to examine a selection of Martin’s artwork made before the iconic grid paintings she began around 1960. Martin destroyed much of her early work; for her, only the grids successfully embodied the authorial detachment and holistic union of painterly elements she sought in her practice. Despite the obvious curatorial challenges caused by Martin’s acts of destruction, the exhibition’s organizers, Tiffany Bell and Jina Brenneman,... Full Review
July 24, 2014