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

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What distinguishes the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Calder: Hypermobility exhibition from other recent Calder exhibitions is its presentation of sculpture as performance art. Jay Sanders, the Whitney Museum’s curator of performance art, and his colleagues Greta Hartenstein and Melinda Lang advance the claim that, in order to be adequately apprehended, Calder’s sculptures ought to be seen and heard in motion or, as they would have it, in a state of activation. From the position of art historical argument, this seems so logical as to sound self-evident and therefore unworthy of serious consideration. However, in the museum setting, the implementation… Full Review
June 13, 2018
Ellsworth Kelly
Blanton Museum of Art, February 18–April 29, 2017
Seldom is an artist offered the opportunity of creating a complete space. Seldom is an artist offered complete control of the architecture, lighting, and contents of a venue, or given complete control of the experience of the spectator. More seldom still does a public museum afford such an occasion to an artist, allowing for the creation of a truly permanent installation. With the realization of Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin accomplishes this rare feat, enabling Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) to join an elite list of artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries… Full Review
June 11, 2018
Anne McCauley
Exh. cat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 408 pp.; 364 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300229080)
Princeton University Art Museum, October 7, 2017–January 7, 2018; Davis Museum, Wellesley College, February 7–June 3, 2018; Portland Museum of Art, Maine, June 22–September 16, 2018; Cleveland Museum of Art, October 21, 2018–January 21, 2019
Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925 boldly rethinks the established histories of fine art photography’s development in America, a topic foundational to the history of photography’s origins as a discipline. Clarence H. White (1871–1925) was one of the leading photographers of the American Pictorialist movement, which advocated the practice of photography as a fine art medium. His life and work were conducted in surroundings as varied as the parlors and backyards of Newark, Ohio, a gracious urban townhouse in Harlem, shore cabins in Maine, and the modest farm buildings and open vistas of… Full Review
June 7, 2018
Iveta Manasherova and Elena Kamenskaya
Moscow: ABC Design and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, 2016. 376 pp.; 315 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. Hardcover $59.01 (9785433000810)
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, December 8, 2016–March 12, 2017
Georgia is a country in the Caucasus with a strong tradition of Eastern Christian art. Secular visual art developed here in the early twentieth century. Although it had been part of the Russian Empire since the early nineteenth century, Georgia enjoyed a brief period of independence as a democratic republic from 1918 to 1921. The capital, Tbilisi—or Tiflis, as it was then widely known—became an important destination for intellectuals fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The city also quickly became a center for the international avant-garde. This overlooked chapter from the history of European modernism recently received… Full Review
May 16, 2018
Keely Orgeman
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 172 pp.; 161 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Paper over board $45.00 (9780300215182)
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, February 17–July 23, 2017; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018.
The Danish-born immigrant, inventor, performer, and artist Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968) made art on his own terms, literally. He dubbed his brand of work Lumia, a neologism designed to break with the past and establish a new artistic genre consisting solely of moving electric-light displays. Fifteen of Wilfred’s works, dating from the 1920s to the 1960s, were painstakingly restored for this luminous, and illuminating, exhibition. Accompanied by a beautifully produced and informative catalogue, Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light offered a unique opportunity to be immersed in the work and ideas of an artist whose last retrospective was held… Full Review
May 3, 2018
Michelle White, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. 192 pp.; 289 ills. Paper $50.00 (9780300233148)
The Menil Collection, Houston, October 13, 2017–February 25, 2018; Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, April 6–August 11, 2018
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma at the Menil Collection, the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the United States in about two decades, presents an overview of Hatoum’s career in a nuanced yet direct manner. Hatoum’s work benefits from its quick metaphorical wit; however, this initial, deceptively easy clarity lingers and transforms into something else entirely, an experience underscored by the work’s placement throughout various rooms of the Menil Collection. Both artist and space offered the works for the viewer’s own interpretation, although attention to their specific historical and political context is frequently warranted by Hatoum. The majority of the exhibition… Full Review
May 2, 2018
Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, eds.
Exh. cat. Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2017. 160 pp.; 200 color ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9783777428567)
Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, September 11, 2017–January 1, 2018; Museum of the City of New York, New York, June 22–October 28, 2018
On the occasion of the milestone exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, organized by MoMA in 1940, critic, anthropologist, and cultural promoter Anita Brenner stated that the brilliant artistic scene that arose in Mexico in the early 1920s had reached its eclipse. For Brenner, as well as other influential voices from the arts field, the show at MoMA did not embody the true richness and complexity of two decades of intense artistic exploration in Mexico. Instead, it demonstrated how a series of avant-garde movements had become part of an institutional discourse. Other voices were less critical. Painter and anthropologist… Full Review
Pellom McDaniels III, ed.
Exh. cat. Atlanta: Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, 2017. 98 pp. Paperback
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, September 15, 2016–May 28, 2017
Camille Billops and James V. Hatch are artists, educators, archivists, and activists who dedicate their lives to creating, teaching, collecting, and preserving art that reflects the experiences of the African diaspora. Pellom McDaniels III, curator of African American Collections at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, curated an exhibition and book based on the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch Archives and the James V. Hatch and Camille Billops Papers housed at the Emory University library. The exhibition and catalogue, both entitled Still Raising Hell: The Art, Activism, and Archives of Camille… Full Review
May 2, 2018
Orianna Cacchione, Li Pi, Robyn Farrell, and Katherine Grube
Exh. cat. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2017. 96 pp.; 60 color ills. Hardcover $25.00 (9780300226225)
The Art Institute of Chicago, March 30–July 9, 2017
Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat. represents a significant scholarly work on Zhang Peili, the multimedia artist often acknowledged as China’s first video artist. The exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) featured twelve video works made between 1988 and 2007, including five large, multichannel installations. It opened with 30 × 30 (1988), considered the first video artwork made in China. The single-channel, thirty-two-minute-long video shows in tight close-up Zhang’s white-gloved hands and sneaker-clad feet as he shatters a mirror and then painstakingly reassembles it piece by piece, before breaking it again. The exhibition’s most recent work was also… Full Review
April 30, 2018
Dana Miller
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 232 pp.; 180 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300221862)
Whitney Museum of American Art, September 16, 2016–January 9, 2017;Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, February 4–April 16 2017; K20 Museum in Düsseldorf, December 2 2017–April 8, 2018
Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight was a groundbreaking exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and its catalogue—with essays by Dana Miller, Gerardo Mosquera, Serge Lemoine, and Edward J. Sullivan, over one hundred full color plates, and a chronology by Moñica Espinel—is the perfect supplement. Carmen Herrera (b. 1915, Havana, Cuba) is female, Cuban, and an abstract and minimalist painter and sculptor. Her art background is in architecture and painting, and she utilizes both of these disciplines in her work. Before Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight opened at the Whitney Museum in fall 2016, Herrera’s name and her work… Full Review
April 27, 2018