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

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Exhibition schedule: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, September 20, 2008–March 8, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, November 15, 2008–April 26, 2009
This past winter and spring, the Williams College Art Museum mounted two photography shows based on work from its own collection. The first, Beyond the Familiar, was the more survey-like and pedagogical (with several Williams graduate students serving as curators), bringing together 12 photographers with samples from their most signature projects, about 120 pictures in all. The pictures and photographers come from widely different places and times: Felice Beato’s Views of Japan,... Full Review
September 9, 2009
Catherine de Bourgoing, ed.
Exh. cat. Paris: Petit Palais and Musée de la Vie Romantique, 2009. 256 pp.; many color ills. € 39.00 (9782759600779)
Exhibition schedule: Petit Palais and Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris, April 2–June 28, 2009
Mounted by the Petit Palais in collaboration with the City of Paris’s Musée de la Vie Romantique, William Blake: The Visionary Genius of English Romanticism—featuring over 150 works borrowed from major British collections, the Louvre, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others—was the first French retrospective devoted to Blake since 1947. This overdue exhibition was expansive and thorough, if not inspirational; it was beautifully installed in the Petit Palais’s well-appointed... Full Review
August 26, 2009
Peter Eleey, ed.
Exh. cat. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2009. 352 pp.; 139 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780935640939)
Exhibition schedule: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, April 24–September 27, 2009
I think the most beautiful thing about modern art is that it has built into its own potential the capacity for destroying itself. —Robert Barry (1969) The Quick and the Dead is an exhibition that starts with a spur of a title. Branded beneath it in gold, a pair of triangles are carefully stacked tip-to-tip, one up, one down, in the shape of an hourglass, similar perhaps to a Möbius strip. It eventually becomes clear that this icon is something of... Full Review
August 26, 2009
Sheila Canby, ed.
Exh. cat. London: British Museum, 2009. 274 pp.; 240 color ills. Paper £25.00 (9780714124520)
Exhibition schedule: British Museum, London, February 19–June 14, 2009
Inna Vishnevskaya
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2009. 145 pp.; 111 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9780934686136)
Exhibition schedule: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC, May 9–September 13, 2009
It is unusual for major “Western” museums to host simultaneous exhibitions involving the arts of the Islamic world, and more unusual still for any such Islamic art exhibitions to cover similar regions and historical periods or concern related themes. While the overlap of the two shows on view in London and Washington may have resulted from a scheduling fluke, it perhaps also reflects the growing commitment of European and North American museums both to highlighting Muslim arts and cultures... Full Review
August 19, 2009
Philip Hewat-Jaboor and David Watkin, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture and Yale University Press, 2008. 520 pp.; 420 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $100.00 (9780300124163)
Exhibition schedule: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, March 21–July 21, 2008; Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York, July 17–November 16, 2008
In the course of the eighteenth century, European artists, architects, travelers, and scholars broke from narrow Renaissance conventions and cast fresh eyes on the material and literary remains of classical antiquity. The repertoire of models available to designers and theorists was widened by the study and publication of ancient sites in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and the Near East, while ancient authors such as Homer, Pausanias, Strabo, and Virgil were reevaluated through on-site comparisons of... Full Review
August 18, 2009
Exhibition schedule: Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY, May 17, 2008–ongoing
In October of 1977, eight months after the German painter Blinky Palermo’s death at the age of 33, his friend Imi Knoebel exhibited 24 Farben—für Blinky at the Galerie Heiner Friedrich in Cologne, Germany. Knoebel and Palermo met in the 1960s as students of Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and, like many of Beuys’s students, both went on to exhibit with Friedrich. Friedrich’s eventual patronage of both artists’ careers through the Dia Art Foundation beginning in the 1970s... Full Review
August 5, 2009
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