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

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Okwui Enwezor, ed.
Exh. cat. 2 volumes. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2015. 1054 pp. Paper $130.00 (978883172128)
Exhibition schedule: Venice, May 9—November 22, 2015
Picturing the World: Painting at the 56th Venice Biennale Plenty has already been written about the daily recitations of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital at the 56th Venice Biennale, a gesture that served to recapitulate our nervous twitching about art and money. Across the grand swath of global art on display, there were indeed many compelling moments pointing to capitalism as the hoary culprit in our world of excess and inequity. Typically, at the heart of such claims in relation to... Full Review
May 18, 2016
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Okwui Enwezor, ed.
Exh. cat. 2 volumes. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2015. 1054 pp. Paper $130.00 (978883172128)
Exhibition schedule: Venice, May 9—November 22, 2015
Environmental Art at the 56th Venice Biennale The 2015 Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, focuses on the unpredictability and volatility of our historical moment, or what in another context Ulrich Beck calls the “risk society” (Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London: Sage, 1992). As Michelle Kuo explains in an interview with Enwezor: “That is when the unintended side effects of modernization—technological, ecological—seem to be overwhelming the... Full Review
May 18, 2016
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Okwui Enwezor, ed.
Exh. cat. 2 volumes. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2015. 1054 pp. Paper $130.00 (978883172128)
Exhibition schedule: Venice, May 9—November 22, 2015
Okwui Enwezor’s 2015 edition of la Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures, opened with a somber installation on the facade of the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. At its summit, the striking words of Glenn Ligon’s neon marquee—“blues blood bruise”—announced themes of violence, suffering, death, and sorrow, as well as the role of music as a medium of collective resistance and power. Just below this sign, viewers confronted the Colombian artist Oscar Murillo’s series of black,... Full Review
May 18, 2016
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Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 20–June 28, 2015
William Pope.L: Trinket at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), opened shortly after thousands took to the streets in protest of the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to convict the New York Police Department officer charged with Eric Garner’s death. While heightened media coverage of this and other social injustices resulting from racially motivated aggressions may have weighed heavily on those visiting the exhibition, it is unlikely that viewers would find aesthetic... Full Review
May 12, 2016
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Penelope Curtis and Chris Stephens, eds.
Exh. cat. London: Tate Publishing, 2015. 203 pp.; 131 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9781849763318)
Exhibition schedule: Tate Britain, June 24–October 25, 2015
When speaking of modern landscape painters, John Ruskin argued that these artists see nature with “totally different eyes” and consequently offer spectators impressions rather than imitations of the natural world (John Ruskin, Modern Painters, New York: Wiley and Halsted, 1858, 75). A century after Ruskin published his influential text, the English sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth similarly stated: “When a sculptor is the spectator . . . the artist tries to find a synthesis of his human... Full Review
May 12, 2016
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Julie Rodrigues Widholm and Madeleine Grynsztejn, eds.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 240 pp.; 105 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780226244587)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, February 21–May 24, 2015; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 26–October 14, 2015; Pérez Art Museum, Miami, April 20–July 17, 2016
Puncturing the vertiginous pace of New York life is the poetic silence of the Doris Salcedo retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The Colombian sculptor’s works address violence and are renowned worldwide as sites of collective mourning and reflection. The technical virtuosity of her installations make a retrospective nothing less than a herculean task, bravely undertaken in this case by the organizing institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), and co-curated by... Full Review
May 12, 2016
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Exh. cat. Berlin: Kerber, 2015. 152 pp.; 92 color ills. Paper $47.50 (9783735600523 )
Exhibition schedule: K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, September 6, 2014–January 4, 2015; MoMA PS1, New York, January 31–August 31, 2015; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar, March 17, 2015–August 16, 2015
In his first major exhibition in the United States, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (b. 1971) presented three elaborate films featuring fantastical marionettes performing Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades through Arab Eyes (1983), a book originally written in French but here translated into classical Arabic. Following the exhibition layout at MoMA PS1, viewers first encountered the production materials—sketches, sets, and the marvelous puppets—before entering the darkened screening rooms. The... Full Review
May 5, 2016
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Gretchen A. Hirschauer and Dennis Geronimus, eds.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2015. 248 pp.; 200 color ills. Paper $40.00 (9781848221734)
Exhibition schedule: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, February 1–May 3, 2015; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, June 25–September 27, 2015
Of all the characters passed down from Giorgio Vasari’s Vite, it is Piero di Cosimo perhaps more than any other who came to embody the belief widely held in the Renaissance that art imitates life. What is known of his biography is remarkably sparse, apart from the stories Vasari gleaned as a young apprentice in the workshop of Andrea del Sarto, once a pupil of the eccentric master. Born in 1462, Piero was actually the son of Lorenzo d’Antonio, not a goldsmith (as Vasari would have it)... Full Review
May 5, 2016
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Connie Butler
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum in association with Prestel, 2015. 208 pp.; 36 color ills.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9783791354293)
Exhibition schedule: Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, June 21–September 20, 2015
Mark Bradford’s solo exhibition, Scorched Earth, curated by Connie Butler at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, included twelve paintings, a mural, and a sound installation. Scorched Earth was tough and admirably far-reaching. Exquisitely detailed, the paintings evoked pain and violence. They looked inward and back, and they were surprisingly aqueous. Three haunting, untitled, twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot, black-and-white, unstretched canvases in a low-lit section of a gallery at... Full Review
April 28, 2016
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Philippe Parreno
Park Avenue Armory, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: June 11–August 2, 2015
Philippe Parreno’s exhibition H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS at the Park Avenue Armory offered New Yorkers a comprehensive view of a practice that has, since the 1980s, used cinematic and scenographic devices to merge art and reality. Building on his recent retrospective at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the installation construed the cavernous Armory space as a “street” lined with twenty-six of Parreno’s characteristic lightbulb marquees, and culminated in a set of bleachers that rotated to face... Full Review
April 21, 2016
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