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

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Cornelia Homburg, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven, Ottawa, and Philadelphia: Yale University Press in association with National Gallery of Canada and Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2012. 306 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300181296)
Exhibition schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, February 2–May 6, 2012; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, May 25–September 3, 2012
Timothy J. Standring and Louis van Tilborgh, eds.
Exh. cat. Denver and New Haven: Denver Art Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2012. 288 pp.; 262 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300186864)
Exhibition schedule: Denver Art Museum, October 21, 2012–January 20, 2013
Just before Christmas 1881, Vincent van Gogh took some of his studies to The Hague to show Anton Mauve, then a well-known painter (and his cousin by marriage). It was his first professional art criticism. As he later wrote to his brother, Theo, “When Mauve saw my studies, he said at once, ‘You are sitting too close to your model.’” No reference to this episode is made in the catalogue or labels for Van Gogh Up Close, but it seems to me quite revealing and pertinent to the theme of... Full Review
July 25, 2013
William A. P. Childs, Joanna S. Smith, and J. Michael Padgett, eds.
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum, 2012. 360 pp.; 250 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Paper $55.00 (9780300174397)
City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus. Exhibition schedule: Princeton University Art Museum, October 20, 2012–January 20, 2013
Polis Chrysochous, the modern town in a fertile river valley on the northwest coast of Cyprus mentioned in the scholarly catalogue’s title (but not in the exhibition’s), was, from 1983–2007, the location of excavations by Princeton University’s Cyprus Expedition directed by one of this show’s curators, William A. P. Childs, professor emeritus of art and archaeology. Called “city flowing with gold (chrysos)” since the nineteenth century, the titular City of Gold overlays two rich... Full Review
July 10, 2013
C. D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. 432 pp.; 437 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300185003)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 3, 2012–January 6, 2013; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, February 3–May 5, 2013
Hard and unyielding, marble is a rock that must be wrestled with by sheer force, exquisite care, and grunt of labor. Human hands require the intermediary hammer and chisel, and touch is distanced in the service of the eye. To give this rock the spark of life is a formidable task, one that few are able to accomplish. Red clay is mud. Dirty, cheap, and plentiful, it is underfoot, low, and common. By dint of water it is plastic and alive, the fingers imprinting an instant record of presence,... Full Review
June 26, 2013
Alena Williams, ed.
Exh. cat. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 256 pp.; 100 color ills.; 80 b/w ills.; 180 ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780520268562)
Exhibition schedule: Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery, Columbia University, New York, September 22–December 11, 2010; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany, January 28–March 27, 2011; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, October 7–December 17, 2011; Tufts University Art Gallery at the Aidekman Arts Center, Medford, MA, January 19–April 1, 2012; Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, May 5–June 29, 2012; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, October 19, 2012–January 20, 2013
More than a formal practice of using earth as material, Land art has from the beginning been concerned with social, political, and cultural issues that cannot be separated from the land we inhabit. We know that “landscape” is an ideologically invested term, and artists dealing with their relationship to the land are by no means unique to contemporary art. However, Nancy Holt: Sightlines demonstrates that in the 1960s and 1970s the expansion of media in art played a central role in how... Full Review
June 20, 2013
Sophie Makariou
Exh. cat. Paris: Musée du Louvre in association with Hazan, 2012. 576 pp.; 400 color ills. Cloth € 39.00 (9782754106191)
Musée du Louvre. Opened September 22, 2012.
Prior to the opening of the Musée du Louvre’s spectacular new galleries for Islamic art in September 2012, this renowned collection largely had been in storage for the last thirty-five years, with brief reinstallations in 1987 and again in 1993. After such a long and much anticipated wait, the galleries did not disappoint this reviewer; rather, they absolutely dazzled. Five lengthy, successive visits were just enough to get a sense of the sheer depth of this remarkable assemblage, which... Full Review
June 14, 2013
Dennis P. Weller, George S. Keyes, Tom Rassieur, and Jon L. Seydl
Exh. cat. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with Minneapolis Institute of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, and North Carolina Museum of Art, 2012. 224 pp.; 137 color ills. Paper $35.00 (9780847836857)
Exhibition schedule: North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, October 30, 2011–January 22, 2012; Cleveland Museum of Art, February 16–May 28, 2012; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 24–September 16, 2012
“See the largest selection of Rembrandt paintings assembled in the United States. . . . Ever.” Such ads helped make Rembrandt in America one of the most successful exhibitions in the history of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In its last days, demand was so high that an aggressive scalper tried to sell his extra ticket to a senior administrator as she returned from lunch. The show’s success was all the more remarkable given its genesis: curatorial conversations about the links... Full Review
June 6, 2013
Wolfram Koeppe
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. 304 pp.; 262 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300185027)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. October 30, 2012–January 27, 2013
Once in a while an exhibition comes along that achieves many things. It illuminates past and present, and does so by creating a viewing experience both beautiful and instructive. All the better when such an exhibition also brightens up a blind spot in the history of art. The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens achieved this. Curated by Wolfram Koeppe, Maria Kellen French Curator of European Decorative... Full Review
June 6, 2013
Elizabeth W. Easton, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven, Amsterdam, Washington, DC, and Indianapolis: Yale University Press in association with Van Gogh Museum, Phillips Collection, and Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2011. 248 pp.; 285 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300172362)
Exhibition schedule: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, October 14, 2011–January 8, 2012; Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, February 4–May 6, 2012; Indianapolis Museum of Art, June 8–September 2, 2012
The development of photography over the course of the nineteenth century was a development of vision. For the first time, a person, via a mechanical device, could transcribe reality, freeze it, as it were, into an external, two-dimensional image. Thus, rather than providing an objective recording of reality, photography presented viewers with a new way of seeing reality. The manner in which artists utilized this new vision is the subject of Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to... Full Review
May 23, 2013
Anne Wilkes Tucker and Will Michels
Exh. cat. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2012. 604 pp.; 179 color ills.; 362 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (9780300177381)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, November 11, 2012–February 2, 2013; Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, March 23–June 3, 2013; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, June 29–September 29, 2013; Brooklyn Museum, November 8, 2013–February 2, 2014
The complicated relationship between war and photography is the subject of a massive exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Entitled War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, the exhibition includes more than 500 objects (pared down from over 2,000 initially under consideration) that range from photographs and photographic equipment to books, magazines, and albums. Produced by more than 280 photographers from 28 nations, the exhibition covers wars that... Full Review
May 9, 2013
Michael Knight and Joseph Z. Chang, eds.
Exh. cat. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2012. 351 pp.; 125 color ills. Paper $35.00 (9780939117642)
Exhibition schedule: Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, October 5, 2012–January 13, 2013; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 13–August 3, 2014
Chinese characters have assumed a position of supreme cultural power and authority within traditional Chinese society since their creation more than five thousand years ago, and calligraphy, the art of writing characters, is among the most ancient, venerated, and lasting Chinese art forms. Today, every child in China practices calligraphy in public schools or with private tutors. In public parks, retirees dip giant brushes (sometimes even mops) into water and write calligraphy on the ground... Full Review
April 25, 2013