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

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Baltimore Museum of Art, September 29, 2019–January 19, 2020
Baltimore Museum of Art, September 29, 2019–January 12, 2020
Baltimore Museum of Art, July 14, 2019–January 5, 2020

Three recent exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) reflected an important shift in priorities for that institution. The first and largest, Generations: A History of... Full Review

March 20, 2020
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Denise Markonish, ed.
Exh. cat. North Adams, MA and New York: MASS MoCA in association with DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2017. 200 pp.; 133 color ills. Cloth $49.95 (9783791356051)
MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, October 15, 2016–September 4, 2017; Tramway, Glasgow, August 3–November 11, 2019; Carriageworks, Sydney, November 23–March 3, 2019; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, July 18, 2020–January 3, 2021

The initial sensation on entering Nick Cave’s installation Until is one of beguilement. Thousands of brightly colored wind spinners—metal discs cut with concentric designs that generate a holographic effect when in motion—hang on wire strands from ceiling to floor in a glittering thicket. The walls are netted with pony beads threaded into vivid designs: the word “power,” a hashtag, a red World Full Review

March 18, 2020
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Dread Scott
2019.
New Orleans, November 8–9, 2019

“Slave rebellions were a continuous source of fear in the American South, especially since black slaves accounted for more than one-third of the region’s population in the 18th century.” So begins the most current article on slave rebellions on the History network website. The writers can imagine a fear of rebellion but not the hopes embodied therein; they traffic... Full Review

March 17, 2020
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Erin O'Toole, ed.
Exh. cat. London: MACK, 2019. 220 pp. Cloth $45.00 (9781912339433)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 6–December 1, 2019

In 2017, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art received a trove of 9,200 Polaroids taken by unknown artist April Dawn Alison (1941–2008). To use curator Erin O’Toole’s words, Alison was “the private feminine persona” of Alan Schaefer, a reclusive Oakland-based commercial photographer with a proclivity for short dresses, high heels, wigs, and jewelry, whose gender identity was known only to a few relatives and friends. The voluminous archive consists mostly of self-portraits taken in the... Full Review

March 13, 2020
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Ralph Rugoff
Exh. cat. 2 vols. Venice: La Biennale di Venezia, 2019. 812 pp. Cloth €85.00 (9788898727308)
Venice, May 11–November 24, 2019

The images from Venice that traveled around the world after the Biennale in November 2019 seemed almost tailor-made for the Instagram age: tourists wheeling their suitcases through a flooded Piazza San Marco, residents in hip waders made of trash bags slogging through the flood alongside wooden gangways that offered a labyrinthine refuge for dry feet. These photos were not created with art in mind, but rather as documentation of the impact of the annual acqua alta reaching a... Full Review

March 4, 2020
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Walter S. Melion and James Clifton, eds.
Exh. cat. Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, 2019. 222 pp.; 103 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781928917083)
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, August 31–December 1, 2019

The recent exhibition Through a Glass, Darkly at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum seeks, against the odds, to replicate the pleasure that the learned early modern viewer found in decoding complex religious allegorical prints. Cocurators James Clifton and Walter S. Melion admit that these joys can seem distant to us now. Clifton’s preface to the exhibition catalog opens with a quote from the BBC’s beloved art critic Sister Wendy Beckett, who conceded in one of her programs... Full Review

February 26, 2020
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Marietta Cambareri
Exh. cat. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2016. 176 pp.; 130 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780878468416)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, August 9–December 4, 2016; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, February 5–June 4, 2017

After describing Luca della Robbia’s achievements in marble and bronze, Giorgio Vasari goes on to note

how much time he spent in making them, [and upon recognizing] that he had gained very little and that the labour had been very great, he resolved to abandon marble and bronze and to see whether he could gather better fruits from another method. Wherefore, reflecting that clay could be worked easily and with little labour, and that it was only necessary to find a method whereby works... Full Review

February 20, 2020
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Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico, June 2–November 10, 2019

The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico is the second oldest museum in the state, as reflected by its architecture. The entrance feels ecclesiastical, as you wind your way along the adobe walls and open the massive wooden blue doors, then you suddenly find yourself in a crowded gift shop, followed by a narrow corridor gallery. In 2019, Judy Chicago’s serigraphs lined those walls, with highly stylized images of a woman/earth mother giving birth to the cosmos. She is shown... Full Review

January 27, 2020
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C/O Berlin, March 16–June 1, 2019

C/O Berlin, a nonprofit venue established in 2000 and solely dedicated to photography, celebrated Boris Mikhailov’s eightieth birthday with an exhibition of five series of photographs. Case History, I am not I, Suzi et cetera, Diary, and the most recent, Temptation of Death, cover his work since the 1960s, when Mikhailov, who worked as a train engineer in Kharkiv, Ukraine, began taking photographs. He is an autodidact whose early work depicts people he... Full Review

January 6, 2020
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Paul R. Davis and Georges Petitjean
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Collection, 2019. 20 pp.; 11 color ills. Paper
Menil Collection, Houston, September 13, 2019–February 2, 2020

The undulating dotted lines of Mamultjunkunya (2009; pictured at left), by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri of the Pintupi language group, depict a site that appears, within the painting, to be in constant motion: Lake Mackay. This salt lake “features prominently” in the Tingari ceremonial cycle of Tjapaltjarri’s Western Desert region (15). Through song and dance, the ceremony recounts the ancestors’ fashioning of their “Country.” Within the gallery, Mamultjunkunya’s ripples muddle... Full Review

December 20, 2019
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