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

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The opening of the new Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, was one of the major—if not the major—museum events in the United States in 2010. Accompanied by a tidal wave of publicity at the regional and national levels, the new wing expands the museum’s previous display space by over one-third; it showcases art from both South and North America, offering a more expansive definition of “America” than has been standard in museum collections; and it includes... Full Review
August 25, 2011
Copious accolades and impressive numerical figures fed into the hype surrounding the opening, in November 2010, of the Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. One can read in the mainstream media sensational descriptions of the elegant four-floor, 121,307-square-foot glass rectangle (designed by the London firm Foster + Partners) that houses the wing and many plaudits of its fifty-three galleries (which showcase over five thousand objects, more than double the... Full Review
August 25, 2011
Exhibition schedule: Neil L. and Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, September 2–December 3, 2010
The European tradition in the graphic arts began in the fifteenth century, and early prints are notable for a bold and rapid exploration of new subjects and themes. Given the much expanded degree of interaction between Christian Europeans and black Africans that developed during the 1400s, one might imagine that printmakers would have been eager to depict persons of color. Yet the first attempts to do so were halting, and for a paradoxical reason: graphic artists had a hard time showing dark... Full Review
August 25, 2011
Heather Campbell Coyle, ed.
Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 2010. 16 pp.; 4 ills. (9780977I64424)
Exhibition schedule: Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, September 26, 2010–January 9, 2011
Monumental color woodcuts were the most striking feature of the work of Leonard Baskin (1922–2000) displayed in a single large, light-filled room at the Delaware Art Museum. Although Baskin thought of himself primarily as a sculptor, the only freestanding sculpture included was Lazarus (1960), and his legacy will rest on the superb craftsmanship and expressionist power of his relief prints and letterpress books. The solo show was comprised of the seventy-six works created between1952... Full Review
July 28, 2011
John M. D. Pohl and Claire L. Lyons
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010. 112 pp.; 38 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Cloth $25.00 (9781606060070)
Exhibition schedule: J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Villa, Malibu, March 24–July 5, 2010.
Khristaan D. Villela
Ed. Mary Ellen Miller. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010. 344 pp.; 22 color ills.; 144 b/w ills. Cloth $49.00 (9781606060049)
A brainchild of former Getty Museum Director Michael Brand and scheduled to commemorate the bicentennial of Mexican independence from Spain, The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire was the most ambitious exhibition undertaken by the Getty Villa since its reopening in 2006. A “museum and educational center dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria” (according to its website), the Getty’s Roman-style villa proved a provocative and unexpectedly... Full Review
July 21, 2011
Clare Browne and Mark Evans
Exh. cat. London: V&A Publishing, 2010. 120 pp. Cloth $24.95 (9781851776344)
Exhibition schedule: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, September 8–October 24, 2010
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s small but fascinating exhibition Raphael: Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel brought together four tapestries from the Vatican Museum’s famous ten-piece Acts of the Apostles set and seven of Raphael’s original full-scale designs for the weavings, which are housed at the V&A. The show offered an unprecedented opportunity to compare preparatory and final works, each a Renaissance masterpiece in its own right. In addition, a small group... Full Review
July 14, 2011
Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon
Exh. cat. London: British Museum, 2011. 304 pp.; many color ills. £25.00 (9780714111728)
Exhibition schedule: British Museum, London, March 3–July 17, 2011
Two decades ago, a crowd of Afghanistan’s VIPs gathered at the Koti Bagcha in the Presidential Palace for an exclusive one-day showing of a small collection of the country’s rarest antiquities. The collections had been securely stored in the vaults below the Presidential Palace during the later years of the Soviet occupation (1979–89), owing to a group of concerned Afghan officials who organized their protection under the auspices of then-President Mohammad Najibullah. After the exhibition,... Full Review
July 7, 2011
Diane Waggoner, ed.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and Aldershot, UK: Lund Humphries in association with National Gallery of Art, 2010. 240 pp.; 198 color ills.; 3 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781848220676)
Exhibition schedule: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 31, 2010–January 30, 2011; Musée d'Orsay, Paris, March 6–May 29, 2011
The Pre-Raphaelite Lens: British Photography and Painting, 1848–1875, on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, was a concise and handsome exhibition that addressed an ambitious topic: the dynamic interaction between artistic media from the late 1840s until the 1870s. The artistic movement known as Pre-Raphaelitism provided the lens that focused this investigation. Photography was still in its first decade as public knowledge when the young artists who styled themselves... Full Review
June 23, 2011
Virginia Mecklenburg
Exh. cat. New York: Abrams, 2010. 252 pp.; 118 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780810996519)
Exhibition schedule: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, July 2, 2010–January 2, 2011
It makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t George Lucas and Steven Spielberg champion and collect the art of Norman Rockwell? They’ve all shared enviable talents at telling engaging stories about the dreams that make ordinary people heroic. Their stories evoke feelings of nostalgia for an earlier time of innocence—a mythic construction at the heart of many popular narratives of the “American” experience. Indeed, Lucas and Spielberg have developed substantial collections of Rockwell’s paintings... Full Review
June 9, 2011
Christa C. Mayer Thurman
Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2010. 36 pp.; 45 ills. Paper $15.00 (9780865592438)
Exhibition schedule: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, November 3, 2010–February 7, 2011
June Wayne’s exhibition Narrative Tapestries: Tidal Waves, DNA, and the Cosmos symbolized her triumphant return to the city of her youth and marked the re-opening of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (AIC) permanent textile galleries after a five-year renovation. The show featured eleven out of twelve exquisite tapestries Wayne created in collaboration with three different French ateliers from 1970–74 led by the following artists: Pierre Daquin, Camille Legoueix, and Giselle... Full Review
June 1, 2011