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

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Michael Marlais, John Varriano, and Wendy M. Watson
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, 2004.
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Mass., September 7–December 12, 2004
At the start of the exhibition Valenciennes, Daubigny, and the Origins of French Landscape Painting, visitors are presented with a minor masterpiece by the mid-nineteenth-century French landscape painter Charles-François Daubigny, a remarkably fresh and boldly rendered vision of a modest corner of the French countryside at Optevoz, in the Bas-Dauphiné region of southeastern France. Painted around 1856, The Water’s Edge, Optevoz depicts a local fishing pond, rocky, overgrown, and... Full Review
December 6, 2004
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Lynn Zelevansky, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with MIT Press, 2004. 240 pp.; 232 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0262240475)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Calif., June 13–October 3, 2004; Miami Art Museum, Miami, Fla., November 18, 2004–May 1, 2005
Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form, 1940s–1970s makes modern art’s recent past reflect meaningfully on the present. The word “beyond” in the exhibition’s title promises a look at evidence not covered or hidden by the noun to which it is attached. Although the years from 1940 to 1970 press for breadth, they also situate the exhibition in a specific era with no claims for timeless transcendence. In modern art, form—as separate from content—has a suspenseful, contentious history. During... Full Review
November 15, 2004
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Asia Society Museum, New York, February 4–May 11, 2003; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 25–May 23, 2004; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, July 23–October 10, 2004
Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind, a traveling exhibition of Buddhist-inspired art by the internationally acclaimed Thai artist, Montien Boonma (1953–2000), leaves the viewer with vivid memories of transforming experiences. Boonma’s art is not marked by iconic images and didactic narratives, but rather expresses more conceptually the tenets and healing aspects of Buddhism. Most of the art in this exhibition dates from the early 1990s to 2000, a period during which Boonma’s wife became... Full Review
November 4, 2004
David McCabe and David Dalton
London: Phaidon, 2003. 240 pp.; 400 b/w ills. Cloth (9780714843223)
Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, Nashville, Tenn., September 2–October 14, 2004
In early 1964, shortly after acquiring the studio space at 231 East Forty-Seventh Street in New York that would become known as the Factory, Pop artist Andy Warhol commissioned British fashion photographer David McCabe to document his life for one year. Although the project resulted in over 2,500 photographs, none of the images were used by Warhol, nor were any published until last year’s release of McCabe’s book, A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol (London: Phaidon Press, 2003). The... Full Review
October 7, 2004
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Lynne Warren, ed.
Exh. cat. Champaign: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in association with University of Illinois Press, 2004. 96 pp.; many color ills. Paper $29.95 (0933856830)
That most Chicagoans who have encountered Dan Peterman’s work have done so without knowing it seems as fitting a tribute to the artist’s ambitions as does the current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA). Indeed, as much as I enjoyed seeing Plastic Economies, I have equally enjoyed using Peterman’s installation Chicago Ground Cover (1997)— without realizing it was an installation—while learning to samba, salsa, shimmy, and shake atop the smooth surface... Full Review
September 14, 2004
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Robert L. Herbert
Exh. cat. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. 288 pp.; 307 color ills.; 64 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (0520242114)
Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, June 19–September 19, 2004
Shortly before I visited the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago to see the exhibition Seurat and the Making of “La Grande Jatte”, an art historian friend in Berlin wrote me, asking if the show was traveling to Europe. The answer is no, and visitors to the exhibition are told the reason why: in 1958, a fire broke out at New York’s Museum of Modern Art while A Sunday on La Grande Jatte was on display there. Though Georges Seurat’s canvas was unharmed, the Art Institute decided... Full Review
September 10, 2004
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Andrea Bayer, ed.
Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2004. 272 pp.; 136 color ills.; 83 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0300102755)
Museo Civico “Ala Ponzone,” Cremona, February 14–May 2, 2004; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 27–August 15, 2004
Tracing artistic origins and sources is always tricky business, never more so than when one is seeking to identify and explain a concept as broad and malleable as naturalism. First there is the problem of the term itself. Postmodern theory has rightly claimed that there is no such thing as a naïve, unmediated, “natural” representation of the world around us. Not only are there different kinds of naturalism and different purposes it can serve, but one culture’s naturalism may also strike... Full Review
August 12, 2004
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Ann Goldstein and Lisa Mark, eds.
Exh. cat. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in association with MIT Press, 2003. 452 pp.; 200 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262072513)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 14–August 2, 2004
Two discourses of Minimalism have come to determine its academic reception today, both of which reject theories by the twentieth century’s most prominent critic, Clement Greenberg. One line of thought stresses the objecthood of an artwork against Greenberg’s insistence that modernist painting remain true to the inherent, unique qualities of the medium. The other emphasizes the phenomenological experience one has of sculpture in real time and space against Greenberg’s call for a disembodied,... Full Review
July 15, 2004
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The Norton Simon Museum’s exhibition of thirty black-chalk drawings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard offered the viewer an unusual challenge. Consisting of drawings after old-master paintings executed by Fragonard during a tour of Italy in 1760–61, the exhibition took as its subject the education of an artist. By positioning near each drawing a small photo reproduction of the original painting that Fragonard was copying, the viewer was inevitably drawn into a game of comparison as well as a quest to... Full Review
July 14, 2004
Alan Tapié
Paris: Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2003. 414 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. Paper $58.00 (2850566470)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, Caen, France, July 11–October 13, 2003
Any outsider to the field surveying the recent spate of big thesis exhibitions could not fail to notice the discrepant narratives of the Baroque currently in circulation. The Genius of the Rome, 1592–1623 (held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2001) supported a story of individual styles and individual patrons’ taste, sometimes a chaotic situation, but one governed by individual choices that were only secondarily infringed upon by institutional needs or demands. By contrast,... Full Review
March 11, 2004
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