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

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Kathleen Berrin and Virginia M. Fields, eds.
Exh. cat. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Haven: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Yale University Press, 2010. 272 pp.; 231 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9780300166767)
Exhibition schedule: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, October 2, 2010–January 9, 2011; de Young Museum, San Francisco, February 19, 2011–May 8, 2011
The ancient Mexican civilization traditionally known as the Olmec, approximately 1800–400 BC, left a rich material record of its presence. Yet without written documentation, scholars are left to ponder both the origin of the Olmec and the specific cultural, spiritual, and political significance of the many, primarily stone, works excavated since the nineteenth century. Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico, a collaboration between the Instituto Nacional de Antropolgía e... Full Review
June 1, 2011
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Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 7, 2010–April 18, 2011
In the summer 2010 issue of Artforum, dedicated to “the museum revisited,” Kathy Halbreich, associate director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, shared the new standards she has brought to the museum’s program, prominent among them a desire to engage actively with “the issues that shape [their visitors’] lives,” enriching the viewer’s experience with “newly relevant” systems of “distribution and display” (Artforum 48, no. 10 [Summer 2010]: 278). Apparently her worthy mandate... Full Review
May 18, 2011
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Jessica Morgan and Leslie Jones, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles and New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with Prestel, 2009. 324 pp.; 240 ills. Paper $36.00 (3791343459)
Exhibition schedule: Tate Modern, London, October 13, 2009–January 10, 2010; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, June 27, 2010–September 12, 2010; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 20, 2010–January 9, 2011
John Baldessari: Pure Beauty was an extensive retrospective composed of over 150 works created by the artist over the last 45 years. To access this exhibition on the Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art (LACMA) campus, I walked through the Ahmanson Building, past EATLACMA, by the contemporary LA artist collective Fallen Fruit, down a set of stairs to cross beneath Smoke, Tony Smith’s soaring hexagonal 1967 sculpture, which quite literally fills the atrium.... Full Review
March 24, 2011
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Marina McDougall, ed.
Exh. cat. Oakland and San Francisco: Oakland Museum of California and Chronicle Books, 2010. 128 pp.; 114 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780811874519)
Exhibition schedule: Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, September 11, 2010–March 6, 2011
Physicists are poised to articulate a historic “theory of everything” that will tie together gravity, light, and all the rest of the stuff that makes up the universe as merely different manifestations of the same essential subatomic reality. Mark Dion is that rarest of artists whose body of work is arguing for a parallel aesthetic breakthrough: the revelation that not only are sculpture, painting, drawing, and the rest accepted forms of contemporary art, but so too are activities like... Full Review
March 16, 2011
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