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

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Carlos Basualdo, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven and Philadelphia : Yale University Press in association with Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009. 240 pp.; 120 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9780300149814)
Exhibition schedule: United States Pavilion at the 53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia. Organizing institution: Philadelphia Museum of Art. Exhibition Curators: Carlos Basualdo and Michael Taylor. June 7–November 22, 2009. A portion of the exhibition will be traveling to the Philadelphia Museum of Art: November 21, 2009–April 4, 2010.
Bruce Nauman’s masterful Topological Gardens, which was the United States entry in the 53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale de Venezia, not surprisingly won the Golden Lion Award for best national pavilion. Breaking from most previous U.S. exhibitions at the biennale, Nauman’s amounts to a not-so-mini-survey and is spread, also uncharacteristically, over three venues—the United States Pavilion in the Giardini, the Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini, and the Università Ca’... Full Review
September 29, 2009
Exhibition schedule: MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, October 19, 2008–March 1, 2009
For this exhibition, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, assembled over 130 works by more than 100 artists to present the first large-scale exhibition of artists’ books in Los Angeles since 1978. But To Illustrate and Multiply was not a historical survey of artists’ books. Despite the expanse of works included, the exhibition was decidedly contemporary in scope—the earliest book on view was Ray Johnson’s The Paper Snake from 1965, and many of the books presented... Full Review
September 23, 2009
Mark Rosenthal, ed.
Exh. cat. San Francisco, West Palm Beach, and New Haven: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Norton Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2009. 264 pp.; 297 color ills. Cloth and DVD $50.00 (9780300150483)
Exhibition schedule: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, March 14–May 31, 2009; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, July 11–September 27, 2009; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, November 7, 2009–January 17, 2010; Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 28–May 17, 2010; Albertina, Vienna, October 30, 2010–January 30, 2011; Israel Museum, Jerusalem, March 5–May 29, 2011; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, July 7–October 2, 2011
So often our preliminary encounter with an exhibition sets our expectations and attitude about the work. This is particularly true for shows where that initial encounter occurs prior to actually seeing the art. My introduction to William Kentridge: Five Themes at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was very much influenced by hearing muffled music as I walked through the galleries of works on paper that were part of the exhibition’s first section, “Parcours d’Atelier: Artist in the... Full Review
September 16, 2009
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