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

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Nicholas Baume, Jen Mergel, and Lawrence Weschler
Exh. cat. Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and Monacelli Press, 2008. 160 pp.; 99 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781580932134)
Exhibition schedule: Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Boston, October 10, 2008–January 4, 2009; Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati, February 7–May 11, 2009; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, June 19–September 13, 2009; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, October 10, 2009–January 16, 2010
In her recent career survey organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston, Tara Donovan creates ethereal, environmental sculptures out of such banal, everyday objects as toothpicks, Scotch tape, Mylar, and plastic cups. Working with one material at a time, and testing the range of its physical properties, Donovan subverts the utilitarian function of an object through a process of accumulation. In the seventeen works on view from the past decade, she stacks, piles, or otherwise... Full Review
March 25, 2009
Andrea Bayer, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2008. 392 pp.; 300 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300124118)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 11, 2008–February 16, 2009; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, March 15–June 14, 2009
In almost every sense, the exhibition Art and Love in Renaissance Italy and the accompanying catalogue are retrospective. First, they include many objects that were acquired by collectors at the beginning of the twentieth century, during an earlier period of interest in the history of private life. Second, they draw upon and summarize four recent decades of historical and art-historical scholarship focused on the family life of Renaissance Italians and the material objects that... Full Review
March 25, 2009
Pina Ragionieri
Syracuse and Philadelphia: Syracuse University Art Galleries in association with University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. 120 pp.; 26 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780812241488)
Exhibition schedule: Syracuse University Art Galleries, Syracuse, August 12–October 19, 2008; Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery, New York, November 4, 2008–January 4, 2009
Michelangelo: The Man and the Myth provides American audiences with a rare opportunity to intimately view twelve drawings (doubling the number in U.S. collections) and three documents by the hand of one of history’s most revered artists, all on loan from the Casa Buonarroti in Florence and never before exhibited in the United States. These original works are accompanied by six portraits of the artist (my favorite is the enigmatic bronze medal by Leone Leoni, 1561); six posthumous... Full Review
February 25, 2009
Rudolf Frieling, ed.
Exh. cat. San Francisco and London: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Thames and Hudson, 2008. 212 pp.; 200 ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780500238585)
Exhibition schedule: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, November 8, 2008–February 8, 2009
Joseph Beuys famously proposed that, “every human being is an artist” (Joseph Beuys, “I Am Searching for Field Character,” in Art into Society, Society into Art, trans. Caroline Tisdall, London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1974, 48). How, then, do we understand the relationship between artists and audience? The Art of Participation, an extremely ambitious, multifaceted exhibition and catalogue by Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern... Full Review
February 18, 2009
George Fifield and Judith S. Donath
Exh. cat. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2008. 84 pp. Paper and DVD $34.00 (9780981520810)
Exhibition schedule: Milwaukee Museum of Art, October 4, 2008–January 11, 2009
Act/React, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s recent exhibition of interactive installation art, presented work by six contemporary artists: Janet Cardiff, Brian Knep, Liz Phillips, Daniel Rozin, Scott Snibbe, and Camille Utterback. While all employ some combination of customized computer software, surveillance cameras, digital video and projection, electronic photocells and circuits, microcontrollers, synthesizers, and amplifiers, the resulting artworks nonetheless conceal their technological... Full Review
February 18, 2009
Lisa Strong
Exh. cat. Fort Worth and Norman: Amon Carter Museum in association with University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. 238 pp.; 100 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780883601051)
Exhibition schedule: Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, September 20, 2008–January 11, 2009; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, February 7–May 10, 2009
Like the proto-ethnographic works of his better-known contemporaries Karl Bodmer and George Catlin, Baltimore-born painter Alfred Jacob Miller’s views of the American West both shaped and reflected the myriad histories and identities that formed the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. Miller is perhaps most closely associated with such paintings as The Lost Greenhorn (1851) and The Trapper’s Bride (1846), both of which appear in the deftly curated... Full Review
January 28, 2009
Ian Warrell, ed.
Exh. cat. London: Tate Publishing, 2007. 272 pp.; 250 ills. Paper $35.00 (9781854375698)
Exhibition schedule: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 1, 2007–January 6, 2008; Dallas Museum of Art, February, 10–May 18, 2008; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June, 24–September 21, 2008
The exhibition J. M. W. Turner, recently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was the first large-scale exhibition of the artist's work presented in the United States since the 1960s, and viewers paid the price, with a show that was too big and broad for most appetites. On my visits, the exhibition seemed to be challenging the stamina of all but the most devoted tourists and art historians. The problem was not only one of stamina. Seen in such quantity, Turner’s uniqueness is... Full Review
January 28, 2009
Bertrand Tillier and et al.
Exh. cat. Ostfildern-Ruit and New York: Hatje Cantz Verlag and Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. 480 pp.; 470 color ills.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783775721097)
Exhibition schedule: Grand Palais, Paris, October 13, 2007–January 28, 2008; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 27–May 18, 2008; Musée Fabre, Montpellier, June 13–September 28, 2008
Looming before the visitor entering the recent Gustave Courbet exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was an enlargement of the artist’s striking The Desperate Man (1844–45), an image effectively representative of the artist’s intense effort to secure artistic fame without sacrificing his personal vision. Once inside the exhibition, the paintings themselves provided the chief drama in a curatorial endeavor that “sought to relocate Courbet’s work in the context of his time”... Full Review
January 20, 2009
Nancy Spector, Michael Archer, and et al.
New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2008. 256 pp.; 85 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780892073771)
Exhibition schedule: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, October 24, 2008–January 7, 2009
theanyspacewhatever is an exhibition that aims to provide a retrospective view on a range of artistic practices that emerged in the 1990s. What unites these practices, regardless of the different stylistic and aesthetic strategies they employ, is the way they turn the idea of an art exhibition into a dynamic medium of sociability and collaboration. To exemplify this practice, Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim’s chief curator, invited ten contemporary artists to collectively formulate a... Full Review
December 30, 2008
Daniell Cornell and Mark Dean Johnson, eds.
Exh. cat. San Francisco and Berkeley: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in association with University of California Press, 2008. 176 pp.; 95 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780520258648)
Exhibition schedule: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, San Francisco, October 25, 2008–January 18, 2009; Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, NY, February 18–August 23, 2009
“Forty years ago there were no Asian Americans,” reads the provocative first sentence of Gordon H. Chang and Mark Dean Johnson’s introduction to the catalogue for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco exhibition Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900–1970. It seems that until the first recorded use of “Asian American” at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968, the terms for Americans of Asian ancestry were either “Orientals” or more ethnic-specific descriptors. As... Full Review
December 17, 2008