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

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Kerry Brougher
Exh. cat. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution in association with Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2005. 272 pp.; 344 color ills.; 32 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0500512175)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Calif., February 13–May 22, 2005; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 23–September 11, 2005
One thought-provoking passage from the introductory wall panel at the entrance to Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent exhibition, Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900, read as follows: “Music offered a model to which art might aspire: an art based on a language of abstract form that evokes limitless space and evolving time, in short, ‘visual music.’” This brief passage makes some challenging and complex claims for the broad category of visual art as it relates to the equally broad category of music. One clear precedent for these claims can be found in the writing… Full Review
November 3, 2005
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art in association with University of Chicago Press, 2005. 150 pp.; 40 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. $40.00 (0226894436)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., January 30–May 1, 2005; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Calif., June 7–August 28, 2005
In the 1600s, a convert from Roman Catholicism to the new Protestant faith might have felt disconcertingly bereft of the supportive community of saints in whose company she or he was accustomed to encountering the divine. For women, one of the greatest challenges must have been the loss of the Virgin Mary as empathetic listener and spiritual guide. Yet Martin Luther sternly condemned belief in the intercession of saints as a reliance on works rather than faith to procure salvation, and John Calvin adamantly rejected the mediatory role of saints, along with the veneration of their relics and images, as… Full Review
October 27, 2005
Francesco Bonami, Regis Durand, and Francois Quintin
Thames and Hudson, 2001. 112 pp.; 42 color ills. Cloth $29.95 (0500974950)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 4–May 30, 2005
The construction of historical memory has been a critical issue for photography since the medium’s emergence as a method of mass reproduction and dissemination. German photographer Thomas Demand’s work addresses the question of veracity that remains at the heart of photography’s role in shaping the representation and understanding of history. His work interrogates this concern through a two-stage process that transforms politically charged subject matter from appropriated mass-produced photographic image to sculptural installation to a final life-scaled photograph made by Demand. That he takes on photography’s contested relation to material reality now, at a moment when the cultural field is… Full Review
October 26, 2005
Dawn Ades, ed.
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: Rizzoli in association with Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004. 560 pp.; 500 ills. (0847826732)
Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 12, 2004–January 16, 2005; Philadelphia Museum of Art, February 16–May 30, 2005
The centennial exhibition of the works of Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a signal event for those interested in the past century of intimate relations between the visual arts and psychoanalysis. In The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (New York: Dial Press, 1942; 17–18), the painter reports that during their first meeting he and Jacques Lacan (1901–1981) were astonished at the congruence of their views on the primacy of paranoia as a form of active invention in contradistinction to the passive experience of the dream. Back-to-back articles in the Surrealist journal Minotaure in 1933 expressed… Full Review
October 18, 2005
Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Pamela M. Jones, Franco Mormando, and Thomas W. Worcester, eds.
Exh. cat. Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Art Museum, 2004. 272 pp.; 38 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. $39.95 (0936042052)
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass., April 3–September 25, 2005
The title Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a time of Plague, 1500–1800 does not adequately prepare the viewer for the beauty, substance, and intelligence of the exhibition. Visitors will, of course, be confronted with the grim reality of plague. They will also be dazzled by the depth of scholarship embodied in the well-chosen images, which suggest unmistakable parallels between an era dominated by fear of pestilence and our own twenty-first-century world. The exhibition’s curators, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Pamela M. Jones, Franco Mormando, and Thomas Worcester, organized the exhibition in partnership with Clark University and… Full Review
July 6, 2005
Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, Tenn., April 22–August 7, 2005
SubUrban: Tam Van Tran features the paintings and “sculptural drawings” of Tam Van Tran, a Vietnamese-born, Los Angeles–based artist who combines organic substances such as chlorophyll, spirulina algae, and beet juice with acrylic paint, canvas, paper, Wite-out liquid, foil, and metal staples. The exhibition is the latest in the Knoxville Museum of Art’s ongoing program, the SubUrban series, which serves as the first solo museum show and catalogue in the United States for emerging contemporary artists. Tran has participated in group and solo exhibitions since 1999, including the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and he was selected for participation in the series… Full Review
July 1, 2005
Evelyn Benesch
Vienna: BA-CA Kunstforum in association with Fondation Beyeler, 2004. 204 pp.; 111 color ills.; 24 b/w ills. Paper $30.00
BA-CA Kunstforum, Vienna, April 6–July 24, 2005; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, August 7–November 25, 2005
René Magritte’s art has attracted much attention in the past few years. Following 1999’s Magritte in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Humlebaek, Denmark, and the monumental exhibition in the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2003, a new series of Magritte exhibitions attempts to place the Belgian artist into the spotlight of public interest, responding to new developments in art theory and to new ways of thinking about Surrealism. René Magritte: Der Schlüssel der Träume (The Key of Dreams), the first-ever retrospective of Magritte’s art in Austria, presents more than seventy of his paintings and is staged concurrently with the… Full Review
June 29, 2005
John J. Herrmann
Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003. 215 pp.; 207 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0878466819)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., July 21–November 28, 2004
A strong interest in the ancient Olympics on the part of both scholars and the general public has led several museums abroad to mount exhibitions exploring the artistic and archaeological evidence for Greek sports. The return of the Olympics to Greece in summer 2004 provided the impetus for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), to present Games for the Gods: The Greek Athlete and the Olympic Spirit, the first exhibition in the United States to rival shows such as Mind and Body: Athletic Contests in Ancient Greece at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece, in 1989 or… Full Review
June 21, 2005
David Roxburgh, ed.
Royal Academy of Arts, 2005. 496 pp.; many color ills.; 375 ills. Cloth (1903973562)
Royal Academy of Arts, London, January 22–April 12, 2005
Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600 is an ambitious and highly informative exhibition. With 376 items on display from 53 lending institutions—such is the wealth of material that it is hard to believe it took barely fifteen months to assemble—the show constitutes an important part of a program of all things Turkish in London. The aim is to unravel the cultural origins of the Ottomans (or the Turks, as Ottomans were commonly known in the West), but soon it becomes clear that this is no easy task. Thus Turks skillfully unfolds before our eyes as the widest possible… Full Review
May 27, 2005
Zachary Ross
Exh. cat. Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, 2003. 86 pp.; 19 color ills.; 27 b/w ills. $24.95 (0937031259)
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., October 20, 2004–February 6, 2005
A mysterious illness spread throughout the United States following the end of the Civil War. Symptoms varied from person to person but generally included diminished powers of concentration, decreased appetite, and overall decline in the level of physical energy. The Boston medical doctor George Beard identified the disease as neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, in 1869 and attributed its sudden appearance to rapid urbanization and industrialization. In the decades following Beard’s diagnosis, the American medical establishment refined the list of symptoms associated with neurasthenia and established a variety of treatments for it, from patent medicines to bedrest to vigorous exercise. Although… Full Review
May 9, 2005