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

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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Judith B. Hecker
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2011. 96 pp.; 72 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9780870707568)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 23–August 29, 2011
Lynne Cooney
Exh. cat. Boston and Balgowan, South Africa: Boston University School of Visual Arts and Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers, 2011. 100 pp.; 59 color ills. Paper $25.00 (0977720136)
Three Artists at the Caversham Press: Deborah Bell, Robert Hodgins and William Kentridge. Exhibition schedule: Boston University Art Gallery, February 8–March 27, 2011; South Africa: Artists, Prints, Community: Twenty-five Years at the Caversham Press. Exhibition schedule: 808 Gallery, Boston University, February 8–March 27, 2011
Two recent exhibitions, one in Boston and the other in New York City, highlighted the central role that printmaking has played in South African art for the past half century and provided an exciting introduction to its varied achievements. In South Africa, where art has frequently served as a vehicle for protesting political oppression, printmaking has been valued for producing multiples that can be widely disseminated by resistance organizations. In addition, in a country where the majority... Full Review
November 3, 2011
Desmond Shawe-Taylor
Exh. cat. London: Royal Collection Publications, 2009. 191 pp.; 157 color ills.; 14 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781905686070)
Exhibition schedule: Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, March 27–September 20, 2008; Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, October 30, 2009–February 14, 2010
Sir Philip Sassoon organized the first exhibition of the English conversation piece in 1930. Describing this type of painting as “a representation of two or more persons in a state of dramatic or psychological relation to each other,” Sassoon displayed over 150 eighteenth-century pictures in his own house. Following Sassoon’s identification of the genre, books and exhibitions about the conversation piece appeared steadily between the 1930s and 1980s. More recently, studies on the emergence of... Full Review
October 21, 2011
Sandra S. Phillips, ed.
San Francisco and New Haven: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Yale University Press, 2010. 256 pp.; 230 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300163438)
Exhibition schedule: Tate Modern, London, May 28–October 3, 2010; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, October 30, 2010–April 17, 2011; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, May 21–September 11, 2011
Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870 began by turning a spotlight on its viewers. A robotic beam shone from above, following its subjects across the first floor atrium of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) through a series of improvised tests: small circles, long strides. Its operators were invisible because they were absent. Anonymous spectators selected targets remotely using their own computers and a streaming feed. ACCESS (2003) by Marie... Full Review
September 15, 2011