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

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Scott Simon, Russell A. Porter, and John Paul Caponigro
Exh. cat. Salem: Peabody Essex Museum, 2008. 68 pp.; 59 color ills. Paper $14.95 (9780875772161)
Exhibition schedule: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, November 8, 2008–March 1, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, June 28, 2008–June 7, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, March 14–June 21, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, March 14–June 21, 2009
With the International Polar Year (March 2007–March 2008) and centennial celebrations of the Robert E. Peary and Robert R. Scott expeditions, we are experiencing a new age of polar exploration. The Arctic and Antarctica are now at the center of global concerns about energy and the environment, with visual images—photographs of submersible vessels planting a Russian flag on the North Pole seabed and polar bears floating on ever decreasing ice floes—serving as powerful icons. Contemporary... Full Review
July 29, 2009
Pierre Rosenberg and Keith Christiansen, eds.
Exh. cat. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press in association with Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. 432 pp.; 232 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300136685)
Exhibition schedule: Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, October 8, 2007–January 13, 2008; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 12–May 11, 2008
Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions brought to New York City about forty paintings by Nicolas Poussin, along with a group of drawings by the artist and some of his contemporaries, for a superb exhibition devoted to an aspect of his work better known to specialists than the general public.[1] Beautifully paced and hung, the exhibition was large enough to do justice to the subject without being overwhelming. A group of mainly small paintings from Poussin’s early years in Rome filled the... Full Review
July 29, 2009
Frederick Ilchman, ed.
Boston: MFA Publications, 2009. 315 pp.; 168 color ills. $40.00 (9780878467402)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, March 15–August 16, 2009; Musée du Louvre, Paris, September 14, 2009–January 4, 2010
Comparison stands as one of the central foundations of art history. Well before the Wolfllinian model of left and right slides dominated classroom lectures, writers such as Pliny the Elder told stories of comparison and its more worldly iteration, competition between artists. Not surprisingly, the rhetoric of rivalry predominates aesthetic appraisals and theoretical discussions of Italian Renaissance art and artists, giving rise to a critical category referred to as the paragone, or... Full Review
July 2, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, February 15, 2009–May 24, 2009
The Saint John's Bible: A Modern Vision through Medieval Methods treated its audience to a journey through a “Bible for the 21st century,” to quote an exhibition wall text. The project is the fruit of a decade-long collaboration undertaken by an international team of master calligraphers and a community of theologians and scholars from Saint John's University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. This exhibition was the first to place selected pages from the seven-volume... Full Review
July 2, 2009
Jimmie Durham
Paris: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2009. 232 pp.; many color ills. Cloth £ 45.00 (9782759600847)
Exhibition Schedule: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, January 30–April 12, 2009
In making art, Jimmie Durham sometimes lets his materials do the sculpting. As Encore tranquillité (2008) reveals, the forces he unleashes from seemingly lifeless objects can be startling. The work features an enormous rock settled atop the smashed halves of a small, single-engine airplane. Originally displayed in an old Russian airfield outside of Berlin, it was relocated to the foyer on the second floor of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris as the centerpiece of Rejected... Full Review
July 1, 2009
Mark W. Scala, ed.
Exh. cat. Nashville: Frist Center for the Visual Arts in association with Vanderbilt University Press, 2009. 160 pp.; 74 color ills.; 4 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780826516220)
Exhibition schedule: Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, January 23–May 10, 2009; Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 20–September 13, 2009; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, October 23, 2009–January 3, 2010
In his introduction to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Paint Made Flesh, curator Mark Scala writes that the show seeks to trace a history of “the depicted body as a metaphor for the relationship between self and society as it has changed throughout the decades following World War II” (1). It does so admirably, if incompletely, and without making the recalibrations to larger understandings of postwar painting that seem to be its latent promise. As such, it is an exhibition... Full Review
June 16, 2009
Elizabeth Smith
Exh. cat. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz in association with Musuem of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2008. 128 pp.; 94 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9783775723015)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, October 25, 2008–February 1, 2009; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 12–May 31, 2009; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, November 1, 2009–January 24, 2010
The exhibition Jenny Holzer: PROTECT PROTECT demonstrates a renewed validity for the artist's LED signs, which have long been considered canonical to both contemporary art and feminist discourses. Having made these electronic installations for more than twenty-five years, Holzer seemingly predicted the appearance of the ubiquitous ticker that now streams constantly at the base of television and computer screens. She recognized early on that electronic technology was a crucial site of... Full Review
June 10, 2009
Terese Tse Bartholomew and John Johnston
Exh. cat. Honolulu and Chicago: Honolulu Academy of Arts and Kingdom of Bhutan in association with Serindia Publications, 2008. 480 pp.; 300 color ills. Paper $45.95 (9781932476361)
Exhibition Schedule: Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, February 23–May 23, 2008; Rubin Museum, New York, September 19, 2008–January 5, 2009; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, February 20–May 10, 2009; Musee Guimet, Paris, October 6, 2009–January 25, 2010; Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, February 19–May 23, 2010; Museum Rietberg, Zurich, July 4–October 17, 2010
The exhibition The Dragon’s Gift: Sacred Arts of Bhutan features emerging curatorial trends with regard to premodern Asian art, and displays a wealth of treasures from a little-known Himalayan kingdom on the northeastern border of India. Bronze Buddhas, thangkas of wrathful deities, footage of live performance, monks busy at their prayers, Buddhist lineage portraits, and gigantic textiles are just some of the multi-media experiences the show presents. From the only independent... Full Review
May 13, 2009
Eva Meyer-Hermann, ed.
Exh. cat. Amsterdam, Stockholm, Pittsburgh, and Rotterdam: Stedelijk Museum, Moderna Museet, and Andy Warhol Museum in association with NAi Publishers, 2008. 176 pp.; many color ills. Paper $50.00 (9789056626754)
Exhibition schedule: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, October 12, 2007–January 13, 2008; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, February 9–May 4, 2008; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, September 13, 2008–February 15, 2009; The Hayward, Southbank Centre, London, October 7, 2008–January 18, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, September 27, 2008–January 4, 2009; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, NY, February 15–April 26, 2009
This fall, the battleground states of New Hampshire and Ohio each enlisted an Andy Warhol that was more man than machine and more substance than image to grapple with life and politics at the end of the Bush era. The Warhols on display in Andy Warhol: Pop Politics at the Currier Museum and in Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms at the Wexner Center combine the nuances of mass media with the traditions of graphic arts and painting to delve into personal and public life in the... Full Review
May 13, 2009
Barbara Thompson, ed.
Exh. cat. Hanover, N.H. and Seattle: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College in association with University of Washington Press, 2008. 376 pp.; 212 color ills.; 38 b/w ills. Paper $50.00 (9780295987712)
Exhibition schedule: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, April 1–August 10, 2008; Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, September 10–December 10, 2008; San Diego Museum of Art, January 31–April 26, 2009
Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body was an attractive and smart show. The Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, its second venue of three, offered a stunning introduction to the galleries from its entrance balcony where Allison Saar’s 2006 Cache—a life-sized, tin-clad nude figure in a fetal position held in place by a giant ball of wire—was draped across the floor beneath Baby Back, Renée Cox’s oversized blackout C-print... Full Review
May 12, 2009