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

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Christine Y. Kim, Vijay Prashad, and Latasha N. Nevada Diggs
Exh. cat. Studio Museum in Harlem, 2003. 120 pp.; many color ills. $25.00 (0942949269)
The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, October 15, 2003–January 4, 2004. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 2003. 120 pp.; many color ills. $25.00 (paper) (0942949269)
While a handful of exhibitions have looked at the relationship between African Americans, Asians, and Asian Americans in visual art, such as Ancestors, a joint effort by Kenkeleba House and the Asian American Arts Centre in 1995, Black Belt is the largest exploration to date. As the title implies, it is structured around the premise of a cross-cultural fascination with Asian martial arts epitomized by the messianic icon Bruce Lee. Yet despite the backing of a thriving institution and the obvious energy and optimism on the part of the artists and curator Christine Y. Kim, the exhibition is disappointing… Full Review
December 29, 2003
Alessandro Bagnoli
Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2003. 539 pp.; 300 ills. €48.00 (8882154831)
On June 9, 1311, Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Maestà was placed on the high altar of Siena cathedral. A mid-fourteenth-century Sienese chronicle describes its first presentation to the city: bq. On the day on which it was carried to the Duomo, the shops were locked up and the Bishop ordered a great and devout company of priests and brothers with a solemn procession, accompanied by the Signori of the Nine and all the officials of the Commune, and all the populace and all the most worthy were in order next to the said panel with lights lit in their hands,… Full Review
December 11, 2003
Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, ed.
Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2002. 352 pp.; 189 color ills.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0300097670)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, January 17–April 20, 2003; Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 7–September 7, 2003; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, October 11, 2003–January 4, 2004 . Marsden Hartley. New Haven: Yale University Press, in association with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2002. 352 pp. 189 color ills.; 67 b/w. $55.00 (cloth) (0300097670)
The large retrospective devoted to the work of Marsden Hartley, organized by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser for the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, is a delight, a sadness, and a puzzle in nearly equal measure. The delight is easy to relate. It was thrilling to walk into the Hartford exhibition’s first gallery and face a wall of Hartley’s brightly colored, nonrepresentational paintings made in Paris and Berlin in 1912 and 1913 (cat. nos. 8–11). Their recognizable motifs—numbers, seated Buddhas, musical staves, mudras, Chinese cloud forms, uniformed horsemen—float across the canvases, divided by dark blue lines that alternatively undulate among or… Full Review
September 4, 2003
Carmen C. Bambach, ed.
Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2003. 800 pp.; 333 color ills.; 182 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300098782)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 22–March 30, 2003
Of all artists, Leonardo da Vinci is best understood through study of his drawings, as previous scholars such as Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark, Carlo Pedretti, Martin Kemp, and David Brown have amply demonstrated. Berenson went to the heart of the matter in The Drawings of the Florentine Painters (2 vols. [New York: E. P. Dutton, 1903]) when he wrote: The quality of qualities, then, in Leonardo’s drawing is the feeling it gives of unimpeded, untroubled, unaltered transfer of the object in his vision to the paper, thence, to our eye; while, at the same time, this vision of his … Full Review
May 23, 2003
Duncan Bull, ed.
Waanders, 2002. 192 pp.; 68 color ills.; 159 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9040086761)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, March 9–May 20, 2002; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, June 15–August 25, 2002; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, September 20–December 1, 2002
History has not been kind to the Brussels-born genre painter and portraitist Michael Sweerts. Despite having enjoyed patrician patronage in Rome and founding one of the earliest academies of art in his native city, Sweerts was disregarded by contemporary chroniclers of painting, and upon his death his name and achievements were quickly forgotten. When at the start of the last century the artist began to interest scholars and modern collectors, he was wrongly taken for Dutch. Later historians lumped him with Pieter van Laer and the Bamboccianti, those disparaged painters of the Italian popolo basso, much to his disadvantage… Full Review
May 13, 2003
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, on permanent view
In recent decades, scholars have expanded the definition of American art in a wide variety of directions. Some have been motivated to rethink the exceptionalism so often behind the early collecting and study of art from the United States. Others have worked to document the creative expressions of women and members of diverse ethnic, religious, and class backgrounds into a new “canon” of American visual culture. Still, others have explored the meanings of popular forms of material and visual culture. Instead of establishing a new canon of American art, this kind of work points out the problems inherent in canon… Full Review
April 11, 2003
Xavier Barral, ed.
Paris: Centre Pompidou et du Musée National d’Art Moderne in association with Editions de la Martinière, 2001. 576 pp.; 900 ills. Cloth $75.00 (2732429023)
Centre Pompidou et du Musée National d'art Modern, Paris, June 26–September 23, 2002
For almost forty years, Daniel Buren has challenged the dominant systems of cultural production and reception, mounting a two-pronged attack consisting of an ongoing series of in situ works that reveal the often-invisible institutional framework that structures cultural experience, and his voluminous body of writings, an independent project of theory, philosophy, and commentary on art. The rigor of his project is exemplified by his continual employment of what he terms his “visual tool” (vertical 8.7 cm stripes on either a clear or white background). This rigor has made Buren’s work among the most interesting and important of the neo-avant-garde; it… Full Review
March 11, 2003
Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art in association with Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. 297 pp.; many color ills.; some b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0271022353)
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, October 6, 2002–January 5, 2003; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, February 14–May 18, 2003
Who knew? Certainly there were documents from the sixteenth century around the publishing house of Christopher Plantin in Antwerp that mentioned payments to artists who added color to intaglio prints. At the same time in Germany, a quite respectable living was made in the print trade by individuals known as Briefmaler, or print colorists, who were included among the depicted professions in Jost Amman’s Book of Trades (Frankfurt, 1568). Not to mention all those surviving woodcuts from the earlier fifteenth-century, which were almost always religious images of Christ and the saints and were almost inevitably colored, especially with vivid… Full Review
December 31, 2002
Allison Smith
Watson-Guptill, 2002. 288 pp.; 170 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0823016331)
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, October 6, 2002–January 5, 2003; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, February 14–May 18, 2003
Tate Britain, London, November 1, 2001–January 27, 2002; Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, March 1–June 2, 2002; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, September 6, 2002–January 5, 2003; Kobe City Museum, Kobe, Japan, February–May 2003; Geidai Museum (University Art Museum), Tokyo, Japan, June–August 2003.
The Victorian Nude was an unusual choice for the inaugural exhibition at Tate Britain since it treated a subject rarely identified with nineteenth-century British culture. After all, despite a pile of books in recent years revealing the scope of Victorian sexuality, the popular correlation between prudery and the Victorian age remains strong. By choosing the saucy word “Exposed” for the exhibition’s title, the museum drew attention to the subject’s previously neglected character and to its inevitable prurient associations. In fact, the Victorian nude has been the focus of scholarly attention in surveys of Victorian art and in the many… Full Review
November 7, 2002
Karen Wilkin and Bruce Guenther
Princeton University Press, 2000. 180 pp.; 220 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0691090491)
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, July 14–September 16, 2001; Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, January 26–February 23, 2003; Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, March 15–June 17, 2003
Time always takes revenge on a critic. Any writer with an acute sense of the contemporary in art is bound to appear dated eventually, so the recent exhibition and catalogue of Clement Greenberg's private collection at the Portland Art Museum necessarily raises the question of taste: Here it is the critic who is up for judgment. It is easy to notice the fallibility of Greenberg's choices, and in a way too obvious. Would Charles Baudelaire or Denis Diderot come off any better if we saw a show of their favorite pictures? Probably not. Would their best judgments seem suspect? The… Full Review
July 23, 2002