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

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Ricky Jay
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Siglio, 2016. 160 pp.; Many color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9781938221125)
“Klein, aber fein” goes the German saying: small, but excellent. That is how I would describe the exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to showcase drawings by Matthias Buchinger (1674–1740) from the collection of Ricky Jay. The phrase could describe Buchinger’s drawings, which are astonishing examples of micrography, a technique whereby minutely drawn words create an image. The practice has a long history, which the exhibition examined, but by any standard Buchinger was an... Full Review
January 11, 2017
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Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Hauser Wirth and Schimmel in association with Skira Rizzoli, 2016. 256 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $55.00 (9788857231303)
Exhibition schedule: Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, Los Angeles, March 13–September 4, 2016
Co-curated by Paul Schimmel, former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and partner and vice president at Hauser and Wirth; and Jenni Sorkin, art historian, critic, and assistant professor of contemporary art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016 felt like an ambitious museum exhibition, especially with its impressive roster of thirty-four artists working across so much of the... Full Review
December 20, 2016
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Brooklyn Museum, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Brooklyn Museum, New York, May 1–November 8, 2015
A powerful signifier of knowledge and collective memory in Western modernity, the archive has been a topic of much interest in art history and cultural studies. The scholarship of the last few decades—from Michel Foucault’s to Hal Foster’s—has exposed its artifice, indeterminacy, and historical role in the formation and operation of power structures. What is more, despite the fact that the photograph’s claim of veracity has been seriously challenged by the visual culture of the late twentieth... Full Review
December 15, 2016
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Helen Molesworth, ed.
Exh. cat. Boston: Institute for Contemporary Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 318 color ills.; 170 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300211917)
Exhibition schedule: Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston, October 10, 2015–January 24, 2016; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 21–May 15, 2016; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, September 17, 2016–January 1, 2017
That Anni Albers’s modestly sized weaving Free-Hanging Room Divider (1949) is one of the larger objects in Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 is a testament to the spare conditions under which the artists at Black Mountain College worked. An island of progressivism in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Black Mountain was a small school that staged a grand experiment in collectivism and experiential education. Students and faculty lived together; art practice was at... Full Review
December 14, 2016
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Fram Kitagawa
Exh. cat. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 354 color ills.; 2 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9781616894245)
Exhibition schedule: Nīgata, Japan, July 26–September 13, 2015
In 1999, when a former student activist of the 1960s, Fram Kitagawa, proposed an idea for revitalizing the southern areas of Japan’s Nīgata Prefecture with contemporary art, its six municipalities unanimously declined. But Kitagawa insisted that art could help build a community to reinvigorate the desolate agrarian region and reverse the damage done by the government’s ferocious urbanization. After more than two thousand meetings with local communities, the effort crystallized in the first... Full Review
December 14, 2016
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Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Frick Collection and Yale University Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 278 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300212051)
Exhibition schedule: Frick Collection, New York, March 2–June 5, 2016
Assembled from roughly forty different public and private collections, the exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture, curated by Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker, brought together more than one hundred paintings, drawings, and prints by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) and his contemporaries. Perhaps not coincidentally, the exhibition appeared exactly twenty-five years after another landmark Van Dyck show in New York—Christopher Brown’s groundbreaking The Drawings of Anthony van... Full Review
December 9, 2016
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Eva Respini, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015. 192 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780870709739)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, October 12, 2015–January 21, 2016; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, February 24–May 30, 2016; Museo Jumex, Mexico City, October 13, 2016–January 14, 2017
The catalogue accompanying Walid Raad’s eponymous survey at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a beautiful volume with extensive documentation of the artist’s oeuvre from the 1990s to today; it will undoubtedly serve as the go-to resource on the artist for years to come. Ironically, it is also colored by a set of historiographic problems that Raad himself vigorously works over in his artistic production. What does it mean that alongside a contribution by the exhibition’s curator, Eva Respini,... Full Review
November 30, 2016
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Ali Subotnick and Frances Stark, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles and New York: Hammer Museum and Prestel, 2015. 248 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9783791354712)
Exhibition schedule: Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, October 11, 2015–January 24, 2016
In the earliest works featured in her mid-career survey at the Hammer Museum, Frances Stark traces excerpts from classic works of literature on carbon paper, investigating the intimate relationship forged between writer and reader, artist and viewer. Painstakingly, she has copied the serif font of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915) by hand, as well as the scrawled, and at times inscrutable, marginalia found in a secondhand copy of the poem. These annotations do not... Full Review
November 25, 2016
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Ann Temkin and Anne Umland, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2015. 320 pp.; 300 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780870709746)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 14, 2015–February 7, 2016
Picasso Sculpture, curated by Ann Temkin and Anne Umland at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, is the first in-depth survey of Pablo Picasso’s sculptural production since the exhibitions held in London and New York City in 1967. In the preceding years, Picasso’s sculptures were barely seen, even in reproduction, as the artist—with what I take to be his animist inclinations—held onto many of the works for dear life. The three-dimensional bodies kept Picasso company in ways... Full Review
November 23, 2016
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Cornelia Butler and Luis Pérez-Oramas
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 336 pp.; 400 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780870708909)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 10–August 24, 2014
In 1977, when she was 57 years old, artist Lygia Clark decided to abandon art. For thirty-odd years she had been working through a series of questions concerning space, time, ontological perception, and experience, slowly refining each in a quest to “unite art and life” (Lygia Clark, “Lecture at the Escola Nacional de Arquitetura, Belo Horizonte, Fall 1956,” quoted in the exhibition catalogue, 54). Although not the first, or the last, avant-garde artist to arrive at this conclusion, Clark... Full Review
November 23, 2016
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