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

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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
Anne-Marie Logan
Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2005. 344 pp.; 145 color ills.; 151 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0300104944)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 15–April 3, 2005
The medallions on the monumental facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art contain the names of, among other great artists, Rembrandt and Diego Velázquez. But if one looks for the name of the greatest master of the Flemish Baroque, Peter Paul Rubens, one will have searched in vain. Although Ruben’s paintings, oil sketches, and drawings lay within reach of the most important American collectors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they apparently avoided buying them. For example, Rubens is the only major seventeenth-century painter whose work is not represented in the Frick Collection in New York. This seems… Full Review
April 29, 2005
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Calif., November 12, 2004–March 13, 2005
The cadences of an auctioneer greet the visitor to an exhibition of Rachel Harrison’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but this is not Sotheby’s. It’s a low-rent auction. The bids come in one- and two-dollar increments, and there are no British accents. Intrigued by the galloping voice, you discover its source: a towering, amorphous, silvery blue, concrete mass entitled Hail to Reason. Although vaguely resembling Auguste Rodin’s Monument to Balzac in its tall, oblong shape, Hail to Reason does not represent anything in particular. Instead, it offers a lumpy surface punctuated by alcoves ideal for… Full Review
April 26, 2005
Chiyo Ishikawa, ed.
Exh. cat. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum in association with University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 300 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (0803225059)
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Wash., October 16, 2004–January 2, 2005; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Fla., February 2, 2005–May 1, 2005
It has been a long time since a major American museum has undertaken an exhibition of Spanish art, and none has tackled as ambitious a subject as Spain in the Age of Exploration, 1492–1819. Organized by the Seattle Art Museum and Spain’s Patrimonio Nacional, the exhibition has a strong thematic content that is presented thoughtfully in a handsome catalogue and in the display of some one hundred rare objects. Most of the works are drawn from the Spanish royal collection, and many have never been seen outside of Spain. Prominent art museums in the United States… Full Review
April 25, 2005