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

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Andrew Bolton
Exh. cat. Two volumes. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. 335 pp.; 330 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781588396457)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 10–October 7, 2018
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the latest exhibition from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explored the influence of Catholicism on fashion. As curator Andrew Bolton writes in the exhibition catalogue, it examined “how the Catholic imagination has shaped the creativity of designers and how it is conveyed through their fashions” (96). The exhibition design, by architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, capitalized on light and height... Full Review
January 2, 2019
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Jane Munro, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 269 pp.; 250 color ills. Hardcover $50.00 (9780300228236)
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK, October 3, 2017–January 14, 2018; Denver Art Museum, February 18–May 20, 2018
Leïla Jarbouai and Marine Kisiel, eds.
Exh. cat. Paris, France: Gallimard, 2017. 255 pp. Cloth (9782072751974)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, November 28, 2017–February 25, 2018
In 2017, the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom) and the Musée d’Orsay (Paris) marked the centenary of Edgar Degas’s death with exhibitions that explored different aspects of the painter’s legacy. Each exhibition drew attention to myths that developed about Degas and his art in the years after his death, highlighting approaches that dealers and collectors took to the marketing and acquisition of his works. The subtitle of the Fitzwilliam exhibition—“a passion for... Full Review
December 14, 2018
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Naoko Takahatake
Exh. cat. Los Angeles, New York, and Munich: Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2018. 288 pp.; 295 color ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9783791357393)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 3–September 16, 2018; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 14, 2018–January 20, 2019
The chiaroscuro woodcut has always occupied an awkward and somewhat uncertain place in the history of prints. The technique employs multiple superimposed woodblock impressions in different colors to create printed images with tonal variation. Although the technique was developed by Lucas Cranach, Hans Burgkmair, and Hans Baldung Grien in Germany in the early years of the sixteenth century, most chiaroscuro woodcuts were produced in Italy. Between ca. 1516 and 1610, it is estimated that... Full Review
December 5, 2018
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Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 20, 2015–January 2, 2017; Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, September 10–December 18, 2016; National Museum of African Art, May 18, 2016–January 21, 2018
The exhibition Senses of Time: Video- and Film-Based Works of Africa focused on temporality shaped through the body. The exhibition was co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) in Washington, DC, under the curation of Karen E. Milborne, Mary Nooter Roberts, and Allen F. Roberts. The genesis and development of the show began as a colloquium on time, which took place... Full Review
November 30, 2018
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Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, September 8–October 29, 2017
Divine Violence, the fall 2017 exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, centered on disruption—political and otherwise. The show was defined by a percussive assault of moving images, sounds, and associated ideas. Curated by Yesomi Umolu, it featured four works coproduced by the artist Cinthia Marcelle and the filmmaker Tiago Mata Machado: the single-channel videos Buraco Negro (Black Hole) (2008), O Século (The Century)... Full Review
November 26, 2018
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Exh. cat. Ekaterinburg, Russia: Ural University Press, 2017. 488 pp.; many color ills. Hardcover (9785799622442)
Ekaterinburg, Russia, September 14–November 12, 2017
The theme of the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art was “New Literacy.” The biennial’s curatorial team conceptualized this theme based on interventions into global communication that have arisen from the current “industrial” revolution in the field of information technology. The curator of the Main Project, João Ribas, deputy director of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal, described the theme as having been built around three key aspects: image... Full Review
November 8, 2018
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Matthew S. Witkovsky and Devin Fore, eds.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 324 pp.; 392 color ills.; 78 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300225716)
V-A-C Foundation, Venice, Italy, May 13–August 25, 2017; Art Institute of Chicago, IL, October 29, 2017–January 14, 2018
There should be some irony in the fact that in much of the English-speaking world this past year’s run of major art museum exhibitions commemorating the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution exceeded that honoring the quincentennial of the 1517 Protestant Reformation. Why the god that failed rather than the one that won? That the revolution tended toward iconogenesis and the reformation toward iconoclasm is not insignificant, neither is the fact, as the Russian exhibitions have been... Full Review
October 22, 2018
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Ellen Y. Tani
Exh. cat. Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2018. 112 pp.; 35 color ills.; 19 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781785511653)
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, March 1–June 3, 2018.
Ellen Tani’s Second Sight: The Paradox of Vision in Contemporary Art at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art was a striking exhibition that brought together a diverse array of artworks engaging issues of visibility and invisibility in poetic and literal ways. Works by Robert Morris, Bill Anastasi, Richard Serra, Félix González-Torres, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, Nyeema Morgan, and Shaun Leonardo (to name just some of the contemporary artists of various generations in the show)... Full Review
October 17, 2018
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Valerie J. Mercer
Exh. cat. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 2017. 80 pp. Cloth $19.95 (9780895581754)
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, July 23–October 22, 2017
Museum of African American History
Detroit: Museum of African American History, 2017.
Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI, July 23, 2017–January 2, 2018
At 3:15 a.m. in the early morning of July 23, 1967, members of the vice squad of the Detroit police department raided the second-floor apartment located at 9125 Twelfth Street. This after-hours drinking parlor, or “blind pig,” was a well-known establishment to patrons and police alike. As a familiar watering hole, the site served its black middle-class patrons when other segregated spaces in downtown Detroit would not, yet its illicit status provoked many raids, including nine in the... Full Review
October 10, 2018
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Emma Acker, ed.
Exh. cat. San Francisco and New Haven: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in association with Yale University Press, 2018. 244 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300234022)
de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, March 24–August 12, 2018; Dallas Museum of Art, September 16, 2018–January 6, 2019
Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art is one of the year’s major exhibitions. It was organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco to be shown at the de Young Museum before traveling to the Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition takes a new look at the American painters who, in the years after World War I, developed an art expressive of American modern life by making use of the flattened, geometric, simplified forms of European modernism. Cult of the Machine... Full Review
October 5, 2018
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