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

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Valerie Hillings and Daniel Birnbaum
Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2014. 256 pp. Cloth $40.00 (9780892075140)
Exhibition schedule: Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 10, 2014–January 7, 2015
ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, curated by Valerie Hillings, provides the first opportunity in over fifty years for an American audience to take in the diverse array of experimental artistic practices developed across the international ZERO network. While Zero may initially bring to mind the German triumvirate of Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker, Hillings situates their experiments in an expansive community of peers and makes visible their sources of inspiration.... Full Review
April 14, 2016
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Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi
Exh. cat. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art in association with 5 Continents Editions, 2014. 287 pp.; 281 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9788874396665)
Exhibition schedule: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, February 22–May 31, 2015; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, June 28–September 27, 2015; Musée Fabre, Montpellier, November 28, 2015–March 6, 2016
Containing nearly 160 artworks, the exhibition Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa explores what it means to be “Senufo,” a term describing some of the peoples, languages, and cultures in northern Côte d’Ivoire, southern Mali, and Burkina Faso. It also questions the canonical assumptions applied by many academics and culture brokers to the definition and underlying parameters of Senufo art, culture, and identity. In challenging the long-disputed but tenaciously enduring belief in... Full Review
April 7, 2016
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Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, July 4–September 27, 2015
The exhibition Whistler’s Mother: Grey, Black, and White is as spare and elegant as the painting it celebrates. It presents James McNeill Whistler’s portrait of his mother, Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 (1871), on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, isolated on a deep grey wall. Quotes from the eminently quotable Whistler and his critics punctuate adjacent walls, as does a copy of the artist’s etching Black Lion Wharf (1859), identified as the framed print in the... Full Review
March 31, 2016
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Exhibition schedule: Sharjah Art Museum and other locations across Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, March 5–June 5, 2015
The subtitle for the twelfth edition of the Sharjah Biennial—“the past, the present, the possible”—is a term that curator Eungie Joo took from an essay by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who wrote about the concept of the right to the city, calling city dwellers to action in collectively shaping their urban environments. Within the context of Joo’s biennial, the title was deployed to address the role of contemporary art—how art is a vehicle to freely express the intangible through... Full Review
March 31, 2016
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Massimiliano Gioni
Exh. cat. New York: New Museum in association with Skira Rizzoli, 2015. 142 pp. Cloth $50.00 (9780847847198)
Exhibition Schedule: New Museum, New York, June 10–September 13, 2015
The midcareer retrospective of the German painter Albert Oehlen (b. 1954) at the New Museum arrives with ample fanfare. Many regard Oehlen as one of the most important painters of his generation, and Home and Garden, organized by artistic director Massimiliano Gioni with curator Gary Carrion-Murayari and assistant curator Natalie Bell, is his first solo museum exhibition in New York. The title, suggested by Oehlen, refers to the idea of both interior and exterior spaces, a thematic... Full Review
March 17, 2016
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Exh. cat. Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2014. 297 pp. (9788480265010)
Exhibition schedule: Museum Reina Sofía, Madrid, November 12, 2014–April 13, 2015; Palacio de Cultura Banamex, Mexico City, May 27–September 20, 2015; Museo Amparo, Puebla, October 24, 2015–February 15, 2016
In the fall of 1949, Mathias Goeritz (1915–1990) and his wife Marianne Gast arrived in Mexico. They had spent the last year in Santillana del Mar near the prehistoric cave of Altamira, working with a group of artists that came to be known as La Escuela de Altamira. His stay in Santillana was the culmination of eight prolific years in Spain where his career as an artist began. Employed by the German Consulate in 1941, Goeritz and his wife spent time in Tetouan, Tangier, Malaga, Granada,... Full Review
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Kathy Halbreich, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 320 pp.; 545 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780870708893)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 19–August 3, 2014; Tate Modern, London, October 1, 2014–February 8, 2015; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, March 14–July 5, 2015
This major survey of Sigmar Polke’s vast body of work completed its three-city tour with a fitting last stop in Cologne, the artist’s long-time studio base. In putting together the first retrospective to cover all phases of his highly prolific career, Kathy Halbreich, with co-curators Mark Godfrey and Lanka Tattersall, faced an enormous task. The scale of the show was a constant theme in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) press materials and in the many exhibition reviews published as it... Full Review
March 10, 2016
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Dieter Buchhart and Tricia Laughlin Bloom, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2015. 246 pp. Cloth $50.00 (9780847845828)
Exhibition schedule: Brooklyn Museum, New York, April 3–August 23, 2015
Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, organized by guest curator Dieter Buchhart and former Associate Curator of Exhibitions Tricia Laughlin Bloom, is an important milestone for the Brooklyn Museum: its opening marks ten years since the museum’s survey of Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2005. The exhibition includes 160 pages from 8 notebooks borrowed from the collection of Larry Warsh and around 30 accompanying paintings and drawings. It is worth noting that the artist has not lacked in shows in... Full Review
March 3, 2016
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José Luis Barrios and Alesha Mercado Mercado
Exh. cat. Mexico City: MUAC-UNAM, 2014. 48 pp. Paper MXN 120.00 (6070261251)
Exhibition schedule: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, November 22, 2014–April 5, 2015
The excellent exhibition El derrumbe de la estatua: hacia una crítica del arte público (1952–2014) (The Falling of the Statue: Toward a Critique of Public Art [1952–2014]) examined developments and shifts in public art practice in Mexico across the last half-century. As the title of the show suggests, the driving premise was to dismantle or topple its traditional definitions. Skillfully curated by José Luis Barrios and Alesha Mercado, the exhibition featured sculptures, models... Full Review
February 18, 2016
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Emily Braun and Rebecca Rabinow, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. 392 pp.; 280 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300208078)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 20, 2014–February 16, 2015
Cubism constitutes one of the greatest revolutions in the history of Western art, on a par with the one launched at the beginning of the fifteenth century by two other young artists, in another booming economic and cultural center permitting radical innovations within the realms of the arts and sciences—though Florence, at the time that Filippo Brunelleschi and Donatello reached their first heights in the early quattrocento, was an undoubtedly quieter place than was early twentieth-century... Full Review
February 11, 2016
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