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

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Ann Goldstein and Lisa Mark, eds.
Exh. cat. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in association with MIT Press, 2003. 452 pp.; 200 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262072513)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 14–August 2, 2004
Two discourses of Minimalism have come to determine its academic reception today, both of which reject theories by the twentieth century’s most prominent critic, Clement Greenberg. One line of thought stresses the objecthood of an artwork against Greenberg’s insistence that modernist painting remain true to the inherent, unique qualities of the medium. The other emphasizes the phenomenological experience one has of sculpture in real time and space against Greenberg’s call for a disembodied, intuitive experience of a work. Either discourse moves its results toward Michael Fried’s dreaded theatricality, where the work of art shifts to the subject who beholds the… Full Review
July 15, 2004
The Norton Simon Museum’s exhibition of thirty black-chalk drawings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard offered the viewer an unusual challenge. Consisting of drawings after old-master paintings executed by Fragonard during a tour of Italy in 1760–61, the exhibition took as its subject the education of an artist. By positioning near each drawing a small photo reproduction of the original painting that Fragonard was copying, the viewer was inevitably drawn into a game of comparison as well as a quest to find traces of the mature artist in these accomplished early copies. I was struck first by how faithful Fragonard… Full Review
July 14, 2004
Alan Tapié
Paris: Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2003. 414 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. Paper $58.00 (2850566470)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, Caen, France, July 11–October 13, 2003
Any outsider to the field surveying the recent spate of big thesis exhibitions could not fail to notice the discrepant narratives of the Baroque currently in circulation. The Genius of the Rome, 1592–1623 (held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2001) supported a story of individual styles and individual patrons’ taste, sometimes a chaotic situation, but one governed by individual choices that were only secondarily infringed upon by institutional needs or demands. By contrast, the organization of Visioni ed estasi: Capolavori dell’arte Europea tra Seicento e Settecento (held at the Vatican in 2003) was more decisive in… Full Review
March 11, 2004
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