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

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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
Kansas City, MO: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2013.
Exhibition schedule: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, February 8–April 28, 2013
The past several years have seen the increasing incorporation of digital reproductions and mediations of artworks into exhibitions of premodern Chinese art. Perhaps most spectacularly, sculptural fragments removed from Xiangtangshan in the early twentieth century were virtually restored to their places of origin within the “digital cave” included in Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan (click here for... Full Review
December 11, 2013
Judith W. Mann and Babette Bohn
Exh. cat. St. Louis and New Haven: Saint Louis Art Museum and Yale University Press, 2012. 376 pp.; 214 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300174779)
Exhibition schedule: Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, October 21, 2012–January 20, 2013 (under the title Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master); National Gallery, London, February 27–May 19, 2013
Students of the late John Shearman who were too young to have seen the exhibitions devoted to Federico Barocci (1535–1612) in Bologna and Florence in 1975—myself included—often heard that their beauty and interest had finally proved that exhibitions could be of real inspiration and value, subtly altering and enlarging one’s understanding of an artist’s achievement. Current generations had the possibility of experiencing the same pleasure and profit through exhibitions recently held in St.... Full Review
December 4, 2013
Giuseppe Pavanello, ed.
Exh. cat. Barcelona: Caixaforum, 2013. 304 pp.; 34 color ills.; 177 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (9788461576371)
Exhibition schedule: Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, August 28, 2010–January 9, 2011; Caixa Forum, Madrid, April 24–September 9, 2012, and Barcelona, October 9, 2012–January 20, 2013; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, March 30–July 7, 2013
The advent of digitization has created methods of cultural production that bring new considerations to the relationships between ideas, artifacts, and audiences. Looking at the San Diego Museum of Art’s exhibition Piranesi, Rome, and the Arts of Design, conceived by Michele De Lucchi, one can observe the effects of digitization, as the eighteenth-century designer and fabulist’s work is expressed though twenty-first-century opportunities. The show goes far beyond previously typical... Full Review
November 29, 2013
Mary McWilliams, ed.
Exh. cat. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 2013. 304 pp.; 309 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300176414)
Exhibition schedule: Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, January 31–June 1, 2013
In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, an exhibition at Harvard University’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum, celebrated the university’s acquisition of Norma Jean Calderwood’s impressive, yet largely unpublished, private collection of Persianate art. Mary McWilliams, the Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, certainly faced challenges in cohesively displaying this private collection, which consists of a disparate array of over 140 objects... Full Review
November 29, 2013