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

Browse Recent Exhibition Reviews

Jessica Morgan and Ulrich Lehmann
Exh. cat. New York: Kiito-San, 2013. 650 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. Paper $40.00 (9780984721047)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, April 21–August 19, 2013
For keen-eyed visitors, the exhibition URS FISCHER, mounted at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), last summer, began at the ticket booth located on the museum’s street-level outdoor plaza. There viewers encountered a sign that read, “Please note that one sculpture in URS FISCHER contains a combination of substances which produce mold,” preparing them both to appreciate and be wary of the artist’s sculptural aesthetic of decay, often literalized through the use... Full Review
March 7, 2014
Pasadena: Norton Simon Museum, 2014.
Exhibition schedule: Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, July 20, 2012–January 21, 2013
Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life explored what curator Gloria Williams Sander identified in the didactic materials attending the exhibition as a long-standing undervaluation of the category. As the introductory wall text explained, still life has often found itself “disparaged critically and theoretically as mere copying that lacked artistic imagination.” Indeed, while superb examples populate nearly every major collection, it remains difficult to imagine a still-life... Full Review
January 30, 2014
Lea van der Vinde, ed.
Exh. cat. Munich: Prestel, 2013. 144 pp.; 110 color ills. $34.95 (9783791352251)
Exhibition schedule: de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, January 26–June 2, 2013; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, June 23–September 29, 2013; Frick Collection, New York, October 22, 2013–January 19, 2014 (with the title Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis)
According to the accompanying exhibition catalogue, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis brings “examples of Dutch Golden Age painting to the United States, including four works by Rembrandt van Rijn, three works by Jan Steen, two works by Frans Hals, and . . . Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring” (6). The thirty-five paintings on loan from the Mauritshuis represent some of that institution’s best-known holdings, and the High Museum of Art helps... Full Review
January 15, 2014
Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi and Marc Bormand, eds.
Exh. cat. Florence: Mandragora, 2013. 552 pp.; 406 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9788874611867)
Exhibition schedule: Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, March 23–August 18, 2013; Musée du Louvre, Paris, September 26, 2013–January 6, 2014
That sculpture was crucial to the development of the Renaissance has been recognized since 1436, when Leon Battista Alberti praised three sculptors in the prologue to his Tuscan treatise on painting (four, if one counts Filippo Brunelleschi, who trained and worked as a goldsmith) and only a single painter, Masaccio. The Springtime of the Renaissance exhibition celebrates the crucial role Florentine sculptors played in the stylistic revolution of the fifteenth century, demonstrating how... Full Review
January 15, 2014
Michael Duncan and Christopher Wagstaff
Exh. cat. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 2013. 288 pp.; 214 color ills.; 57 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 ((9780764965821)
Exhibition schedule: Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, June 9–September 1, 2013; Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, January 14–March 29, 2014; Katzen Arts Center, American University, Washington, DC, April 26–August 17, 2014; Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, September 14, 2014–January 11, 2015
In 1956, rector Charles Olson invited Bay Area poet Robert Duncan (1919–1988) and his partner, Jess (Burgess Collins, 1923–2004), to teach at Black Mountain College and exchange ideas on avant-garde poetry. Inspired by Olson’s concept of “composition by field,” i.e., of verse organized by nonlinear, spontaneous associations, Duncan entitled his 1960 collection of poems The Opening of the Field. An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle applies this vision of... Full Review
January 8, 2014
Guido Beltramini, Davide Gasparotto, and Adolfo Tura, eds.
Exh. cat. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2013. 456 pp.; 196 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Paper $44.00 (9788831715096)
Exhibition schedule: Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, Padua, February 2–May 19, 2013
As this outstanding exhibition on view in Padua demonstrated, Pietro Bembo (b. Venice, 1470; d. Rome, 1547)—humanist, author, lover, courtier, collector, papal secretary, and cardinal—was one of those exceptionally rare people who seems to have experienced at firsthand a large proportion of the great cultural events of his time. When Angelo Poliziano visited northern Italy in 1491 looking for unknown ancient texts for Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Florentine humanist studied alongside the young... Full Review
December 27, 2013
Claire L. Lyons, Michael Bennett, and Clemente Marconi, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2013. 288 pp.; 144 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781606061336)
Exhibition schedule: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, April 3–August 19, 2013; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, September 30, 2013–January 5, 2014; Palazzo Ajutamicristo, Palermo, February 14–June 15, 2014
Sicilian Greeks—who adopted a collective identity as “Sikeliotes”—celebrated a decisive victory over the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera in 480 BCE, by tradition on the same day the Greeks defeated the Persians at Salamis (Herodotus 7.166). In 212 BCE Marcellus sacked Syracuse and brought Sicily under Roman domination. Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome, curated by Claire Lyons and Alexandra Sofroniew, focuses on this key period, when Sicily, situated... Full Review
December 20, 2013
Stephanie Schrader, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013. 128 pp.; 47 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (9781606061312)
Exhibition schedule: J. Paul Getty Museum, March 5–June 9, 2013
Looking East: Rubens’s Encounter with Asia was a small exhibition with a big ambition. Roughly twenty objects including drawings, paintings, prints, costumes, and illustrated books were arranged in two galleries to suggest a comprehensive outlook of how Asia was conceived by Europeans in the late sixteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Special attention was given to Man in Korean Costume (ca. 1617), Peter Paul Rubens’s famed drawing owned by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The... Full Review
December 20, 2013
Christine Sciacca, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012. 448 pp.; 240 color ills. 240 $65.00 (9781606061268)
Exhibition schedule: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, November 13, 2012–February 10, 2013; Art Gallery of Ontario, March 16–June 16, 2013
Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300–1350 was a momentous undertaking, an assembly of over one hundred works, most created for Florentine religious institutions. There is a hefty catalogue that will become an essential resource, not only for beautiful plates but for scholarly commentary. The bold title promised a panoramic vision. Even allowing for the customary hyperbole of exhibition titles, it did not disappoint. A primary objective of curator... Full Review
December 11, 2013
Karen Milbourne
Exh. cat. New York: Monacelli Press, 2013. 288 pp.; many color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781580933704)
Exhibition schedule: National Museum for African Art, Smithsonian Institution, April 22, 2013–January 5, 2014
In an era of constant discussion about climate change, rising sea levels, land degradation, energy use, and competition for land rights, the National Museum of African Art show Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa takes on a topic of urgent public interest. Curator Karen Milbourne has broken the exhibition into different conceptual approaches to “earth”— as a source for art materials or material wealth, the home of both human and ancestral realms in many... Full Review
December 11, 2013