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

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Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, January 19–July 6, 2019; Diboll Gallery, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, September 26, 2019–January 19, 2020
Editorial Board Selections: Highlighting Critical Issues This summer, caa.reviews is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. This week we revisit the exhibition Per(sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana with Jillian Hernandez. Read more here. Full Review
August 5, 2020
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Suheyla Takesh and Lynn Gumpert, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and Munich: Grey Art Gallery in association with Hirmer Publishers, 2020. 256 pp.; 162 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783777434285)
Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, January 14–April 4, 2020; McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College, January 25–June 6, 2021; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York, February 5–June 12, 2022
Writing in 1964, the Algerian painter Mohammed Khadda (1930–1991) identified “that day in 1910 when the Russian artist [Wassily] Kandinsky created the first nonrepresentational work” as marking the birth of “nonfigurative (or abstract) painting.” (Note: For the sake of consistency, I have used the exhibition curators’ transliteration of artists’ names.) Published in Révolution africaine, the National Liberation Front’s weekly newspaper, Khadda’s piece was the first of three artists’ statements titled “Éléments pour un art nouveau” (Elements for a new art), in which the authors grappled with the question of the role of the artist in the postindependence state. While… Full Review
August 4, 2020
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Sarah L. Eckhardt
Exh. cat. Richmond, VA and Durham, NC: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in association with Duke University Press, 2020. 260 pp.; 140 ills. Cloth $40.00 (9781934351178)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, February 1–October 18, 2020; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, dates to be announced; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, dates to be announced; Cincinnati Art Museum, Spring 2022
The history of the Kamoinge Workshop, a group of Black photographers founded in 1960s Harlem, is documented and analyzed from multiple, beautifully blended perspectives in this important, substantial book. I had expected to study it after viewing the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) exhibition for which it serves as a catalog. However, shortly after the exhibition opened, the venue was closed to the public, another museum casualty of COVID-19. Louis Draper, the founding member and mainstay of the collective, wrote in his history of the workshop: “‘Kamoinge’ is derived from the Kikuyu [a language of Kenya]… Full Review
July 21, 2020
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Vincent Delieuvin and Louis Frank, eds.
Exh. cat. Paris: Louvre éditions in association with Hazan, 2019. 480 pp.; 380 ills. Paper €35.00 (9782754111232)
Musée du Louvre, Paris, October 24, 2019–February 24, 2020
It is tempting for biographers of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) to wax poetic about the artist’s supernatural talents and divine genius, but instead the Louvre’s blockbuster exhibition Léonard de Vinci offered a cerebral and technical approach to understanding the old master’s virtuosic oeuvre. Cocurated by Vincent Delieuvin, the Louvre’s curator of paintings, and Louis Frank, curator of drawings and prints, this much-anticipated retrospective coincided with the five-hundredth anniversary of Leonardo’s death. As stated in the wall text and accompanying booklet, the primary goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate “Leonardo’s revolutionary approach,” which “aimed to make painting a science encompassing… Full Review
July 14, 2020
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Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, November 23, 2019–June 28, 2020
When a midsize museum devotes its entire space to an exhibition by a recently hired curator, that’s a statement. In Plain Sight, at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, was organized by Shamim M. Momin, two-time curator of the Whitney Biennial (she co-organized the 2004 and 2008 editions) and founder of Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), which generates site-specific installations in public spaces. Not only was In Plain Sight Momin’s first large-scale exhibition since she was brought on by the Henry as senior curator in the fall of 2018; it also displayed her long commitment to interdisciplinary… Full Review
July 7, 2020
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Margaret C. Adler
Exh. cat. Fort Worth, TX and New Haven, CT: Amon Carter Museum of American Art in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 168 pp.; 175 color ills. Cloth $40.00 (9780300246193)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, February 8–July 5, 2020
Mark Dion is a self-described lover of stuff. His materials include broken buttons, vials of insects, antique toys, decaying trees. Shopping at flea markets and gleaning from his environs, he works intuitively. He relies on a certain duration with and proximity to “things” in order to find those that inspire. Indeed, Dion has come to “identify with the mission of the museum, where you go to gain knowledge through things.” He, like the museum, believes in the power of objects to inform and enrich, but his sculptures and installations question the authority of institutional knowledge production. Sometimes working at the… Full Review
June 30, 2020
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Blair Fowlkes-Childs and Michael Seymour, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven, CT: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2019. 332 pp.; 344 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781588396839)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 18–June 23, 2019
The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East at the Metropolitan Museum of Art aimed “to shift the focus away from the two imperial powers [Rome and Parthia] and towards cities and communities, focusing on culture and religion, regional and local issues, and even personal matters” between the first century BCE and the third century CE (iv). The exhibition also aimed to engage “with complex questions about the preservation of cultural heritage.” These ambitious goals were explored through some 190 objects, from the Met’s collections as well as loans from Amman, Beirut, Berlin, Copenhagen, Jerusalem… Full Review
June 25, 2020
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Melissa E. Buron
Exh. cat. Munich and San Francisco: DelMonico Books-Prestel in association with Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2019. 320 pp.; 250 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9783791359199)
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, October 12, 2019–February 9, 2020; Musée d'Orsay, Paris (as Ambiguously Modern), June 23–September 13, 2020
As curator Melissa E. Buron observes, the French artist James Tissot (1836–1902) does not fit the usual art historical labels (11). His work was in dialogue with a range of French and British art movements, including Pre-Raphaelitism, Impressionism, Aestheticism, and Symbolism (41, 44–45, 49). The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF)’s monograph on Tissot, who lived in London from 1871 to 1882, challenges the national borders of the discipline. It reveals, for instance, that supposedly national artistic characteristics can be a matter of perception—Tissot’s work was considered too French for the British and too… Full Review
June 12, 2020
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Getty Center, Los Angeles, November 19, 2019–February 16, 2020
Opening in time for Epiphany 2020, the exhibition Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art at the Getty Center in Los Angeles was the first exhibition at a major museum to examine the portrayal of the youngest of the Three Magi, Balthazar, as a black African king. (The exhibition adopted the phrase “black African” in acknowledgment of racial diversity across Africa. Medieval European terms were in contrast often vague, inaccurate, or pejorative.) Balthazar begins with a question: why, if early medieval legends describe Balthazar as a black African man, does it take nearly a millennium for him… Full Review
April 30, 2020
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Seattle Asian Art Museum, February 8, 2020–ongoing
After closing for two years to undergo extensive renovations, the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopened in early February with Boundless: Stories of Asian Art—an exhibition that reimagines its existing collection and presents a timely intervention into the field of Asian art. Boundless foregoes curation based on linear histories, geography, and national borders, turning instead to a thematic approach that makes space for a more expansive conception of Asia. Criticisms of curating based on national, regional, or civilizational designations have often been lodged in art historical discourse on Asia; however, alternative approaches have been rarely realized. Historically, museums and exhibitions… Full Review
March 30, 2020
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