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

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Exhibition schedule: Freer Gallery of Art, April 9, 2011–Spring 2013
The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art has been many things to many people. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll as a dining room with leather walls and intricate shelving, and radically redecorated by James McNeill Whistler in 1876–77, it originally grew around Whistler’s Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (1863–64) and showcased the blue-and-white Chinese porcelain of Whistler’s London patron Frederick Leyland. In 1904 it was purchased by Charles Lang Freer and installed in a special... Full Review
February 2, 2012
Katherine R. Tsiang
Exh. cat. Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2010. 257 pp.; 160 color ills. Paper $45.00 (9780935573503)
Exhibition schedule: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, September 30, 2010–January 16, 2011; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, February 26–July 31, 2011; Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, September 11, 2011–January 8, 2012; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, February 18–May 27, 2012
The exhibition Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan focuses on sculptural fragments from, and the subsequent digital reconstruction of, the Buddhist cave temple site of Xiangtangshan, located in Hebei Province in northern China. The inception of the site dates to the short-lived yet prolific Northern Qi Dynasty (550–577), the subject of the accompanying international conference held at the Freer Gallery on June 3–5, 2011. The name Xiangtangshan may be... Full Review
January 27, 2012
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Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins
Exh. cat. New York: Monacelli Press, 2011. 224 pp.; 180 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9791580932851)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of the City of New York, June 14–October 30, 2011
Curated by Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, The American Style: The Colonial Revival and the Modern Metropolis was a delightful and instructive exhibition. In one ample room, divided by projecting vitrines and one partial transverse wall, they displayed paintings, drawings, prints, furniture, ceramics, glass, photographs, and even current wallpaper. Various forms of classical revival became widely acknowledged from the late 1870s onward as the best and truest American expression... Full Review
January 27, 2012
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Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman, and Aaron Rose
Exh. cat. New York and Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2011. 320 pp.; 275 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9780847836482)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary, April 17–August 8, 2011
Issues of high and low—fine art versus popular culture—ran rampant through Art in the Streets, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). The first major U.S. museum exhibition devoted to exploring the history of graffiti and street art, it took any number of risks with regard to the challenges it posed to conventional notions of museum art. The exhibition succeeded in large measure and was at once raucous, thought provoking, and illuminating. Not surprisingly, it... Full Review
January 11, 2012
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Edmund Carpenter, ed.
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Collection, 2011. 232 pp.; 132 color ills.; 62 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300169386)
Exhibition schedule: Musée du quai Branly, Paris, September 30, 2008–January 11, 2009; Menil Collection, Houston, April 15—July 17, 2011
When describing the carved artworks of the Aboriginal people of the Arctic regions, the anthropologist Edmund Snow Carpenter once observed: “A distinctive mark of the traditional art is that many of the ivory carvings, generally of sea mammals, won’t stand up, but roll clumsily about. Each lacks a single, favored point of view, hence, a base. Indeed, they aren’t intended to be set in place and viewed, but rather to be worn or handled, turned this way and that. The carver himself explains his... Full Review
January 4, 2012
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Claire Perry
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2011. 256 pp.; 74 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (9780979067891)
Exhibition schedule: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, July 15, 2011—January 8, 2012
Organized in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, The Great American Hall of Wonders at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) celebrated the United States as an exceptional nation. Spanning the entire nineteenth century, but primarily the transcontinental, expansionist period of 1826–1876, the exhibition represented the nation’s citizens in possession of unparalleled democratic liberties and socio-economic opportunities, as they utilized their... Full Review
January 4, 2012
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Lynne Warren
Exh. cat. Chicago and New Haven: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in association with Yale University Press, 2011. 136 pp.; 75 color ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780300172386)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, January 29–May 29, 2011
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, January 29–May 29, 2011
In an era when attention is fractured into multiple platforms and diffused by multiple media, the singularity of Jim Nutt’s artistic vision stands out: for twenty-plus years—as was made evident in a recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago—Nutt has been deliberately and meticulously absorbed with painting the female face. Jim Nutt: Coming Into Character, as curator Lynne Warren clarified both in her selections and in the accompanying text, was not a... Full Review
December 22, 2011
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Caroline Hancock, Franck Gautherot, and Seung-Duk Kim, eds.
Exh. cat. Dijon: Les presses du réel, 2009. 480 pp.; 356 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9782840663584)
Exhibition schedule: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands, June 20–October 4, 2009; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, November 4, 2009–January 24, 2010; Le Consortium, Dijon, France, April 2–June 20, 2010; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, October 1, 2010–January 9, 2011; New Museum, New York, February 9, 2011–June 19, 2011
The opening of Lynda Benglis at the New Museum marked a surprising milestone in the artist’s career: despite having been a fixture of the New York art world since her arrival from New Orleans in 1964, it was her first solo museum exhibition in New York. What took so long? The story behind Contraband (1968), installed in the New Museum’s glassed-in lobby gallery and the first piece encountered by visitors to the show, hints at reasons for Benglis’s absence. It is a prime example... Full Review
December 1, 2011
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Martina Bagnoli, Holger A. Klein, C. Griffith Mann, and James Robinson, eds.
Exh. cat. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2010. 278 pp.; 300 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300168273)
Exhibition schedule: Cleveland Museum of Art, October 17, 2010–January 27, 2011; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, February 13–May 15, 2011; British Museum, London, June 23–October 9, 2011
A golden man clad in church vestments faced visitors as they entered Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the Walters Art Museum this spring. Refulgent against the deep blue walls of the entry room, the metallic statue extended his hands in a communicative gesture. His eyes of polished ivory and horn appeared to be alert, seeing. This was not an art installation so much as an interpersonal encounter. A text panel on his pedestal introduced him... Full Review
November 23, 2011
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Cassandra Albinson, Peter Funnell, and Lucy Peltz, eds.
Exh. cat. New Haven and London: Yale Center for British Art, National Portrait Gallery, London, and Yale University Press, 2011. 280 pp.; 160 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300167184)
Exhibition schedule: National Portrait Gallery, London, October 21, 2010–January 23, 2011; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, February 24–June 5, 2011
“How various he is!” Thomas Gainsborough’s tribute to Joshua Reynolds applies equally well to their successor in grand-manner portraiture. It is one of the signal achievements of Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance that it removes any lingering traces of the negative stereotype: Lawrence the slick, formulaic sycophant who prostituted his gifts in the service of a decadent Regency elite. In its place this wide-ranging exhibition and thoughtful catalogue substitute a dynamic,... Full Review
November 17, 2011
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