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

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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
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
Maryan W. Ainsworth, ed.
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2010. 496 pp.; 337 color ills.; 116 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780300166576)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 5, 2010–January 17, 2011; National Gallery, London, February 23–May 30, 2011 (in a reduced version as Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance)
This seminal exhibition, which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before traveling to the National Gallery, London, was the first devoted to Jan Gossart in the United States and the first major monographic exhibition anywhere since 1965. The accompanying catalogue, which serves as a catalogue raisonné of the entire oeuvre, re-shapes the contours of this important early sixteenth-century artist and illuminates key questions about his working habits, patronage, and the themes and... Full Review
September 1, 2011
Kenneth E. Silver
Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2010. 200 pp.; 155 color ills. Paper $40.00 (9780892074051)
Exhibition schedule: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 1, 2010–January 9, 2011
It is customary to think of European art between the First and Second World Wars in the plural—as defined by competing forms of abstraction, divergent realisms, and assorted returns to tradition. The principal goal of Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936 was to assert an underlying unity to the period between the Armistice of 1918 and the Berlin Olympics of 1936. The chaos and mechanized destruction of World War I, the exhibition and its catalogue... Full Review
September 1, 2011
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