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

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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
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
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
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
Shepard Fairey
Exh. cat. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Gingko Press in association with Obey Giant, 2009. 446 pp.; 780 color ills. Cloth $59.95 (9781584233497)
Exhibition schedule: Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston, February 6–August 16, 2009
For most people, the familiar poster of Barack Obama with the caption, “HOPE,” introduced them to the work of the street artist and graphic designer, Shepard Fairey. This unofficial poster, which resulted from Fairey’s grassroots efforts, provoked a well-publicized lawsuit by the Associated Press over Fairey’s use of a copyrighted photograph by Mannie Garcia as the basis for the red-white-and-blue image of Obama on his poster. This poster, the same image slightly changed for the cover of... Full Review
March 10, 2011
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed.
Exh. cat. Milan: Skira, 2009. 320 pp.; 141 ills. Paper $39.00 (9788857201757)
Exhibition schedule: Canadian Centre for Architecture, May 20–November 8, 2009; Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, September 17, 2010–February 20, 2011
It is somehow appropriate that I began writing this review on a plane. In an attempt to squeeze in a few extra productive hours between a busy conference and a hectic end of the semester, I resort to technology: not just the jet engine that propels me across the continent at the speed of over four hundred mph, but also the netbook computer and the available on-board internet, which allow me to instantly access my notes stored on a distant hard drive. It is an exhilarating experience, but it... Full Review
March 9, 2011
Eduard Vallès, ed.
Exh. cat. Barcelona: Museu Picasso de Barcelona, 2010. 423 pp.; 250 ills. € 30.00 (9788498502466)
Exhibition schedule: Museu Picasso de Barcelona, May 28–September 5, 2010
Focusing on the work of two key figures in the development of modern art in Barcelona at the turn of the nineteenth century, the Picasso versus Rusiñol exhibition offered insights into a number of significant cultural and historical themes. To begin with it explored Picasso's artistic formation and creative development through a study of his juvenilia, even if this term did not always seem applicable to many of the paintings displayed. Beyond tracing the trajectory of works marking... Full Review
March 3, 2011
Kerry Brougher, Philippe Vergne, Klaus Ottmann, Kaira M. Cabañas, and Andria Hickey
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and Minneapolis: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Walker Art Center, 2010. 352 pp.; 120 color ills.; 175 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780935640946)
Exhibition schedule: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, May 20–September 12, 2010, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, October 23, 2010–February 13, 2011
One of the great things about looking at Yves Klein’s work is that a viewer can have a “transcendental” experience contemplating, say, one of his monochromes while simultaneously being hyper-aware of the way the gloriously saturated signature blue pigment functions as a critique of the genius-ridden art market. This is due to the fact that there are various Kleins: ironic Klein, misogynist Klein, sincere Klein, the Klein of beauty and exquisiteness. This is an artist who self-published a... Full Review
February 24, 2011
Trevor Schoonmaker, ed.
Exh. cat. Durham, NC: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2010. 216 pp.; 200 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (9780938989332)
Exhibition schedule: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, September 2, 2010–February 6, 2011
The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is, quite appropriately, a mix. And, like any good mix, the exhibition includes perennial hits, lesser-known works by familiar artists, and more than a few unknown gems. Drawing upon vinyl records as “metaphor, archive, icon, portrait or transcendent medium” (as described in a wall text), the exhibition offers a wide-ranging view of how this single object has remained a catalyst for visual artists... Full Review
February 10, 2011
Susan Harris, Jan Howard, and Pat Steir
Exh. cat. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2010. 116 pp.; 79 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. $35.00 (9700615343822)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, February 19–July 3, 2010
Pat Steir is perhaps best known for her large-scale paintings of waves and waterfalls, but a recent exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design focused solely on Steir’s drawings. Organized by Jan Howard, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Museum, and Susan Harris, an independent curator, the exhibition reveals Steir’s abiding interest in the nature of line in both drawing and writing. Drawing and writing are each symbol systems based on line from which the viewer,... Full Review
February 10, 2011