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

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Rebecca R. Hart
Exh. cat. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2017. 116 pp. Hardcover $22.00 ( I9780914738282)
Denver Art Museum, Feb 19–Oct 22, 2017
Many unkind words and nasty looks have been exchanged in recent years over the ethnic and sex-and-gender principles of curatorial selection. Some artists declined to be shown in Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and El Museo del Barrio in New York in 2008, refusing to be grouped by their race and ethnicity. The exhibition Our America: Latino Presence in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2013 was criticized for being too general, too all-inclusive, and not edgy or “Latino” enough. Seeking to sidestep the… Full Review
March 27, 2018
Rice Gallery
Houston: Rice Gallery, 2017.
Rice University Art Gallery, February 9–May 14, 2017
In 1966 Sol LeWitt wrote, “The most interesting characteristic of the cube is that it is relatively uninteresting” (LeWitt, “The Cube,” Art in America, Summer 1966). Rice University Art Gallery (a space that has now been repurposed), like many contemporary art spaces, was a modest white cube, and LeWitt’s installation Glossy and Flat Black Squares purposely played off of its seemingly “uninteresting” architectural container.  When LeWitt repeated the assertion in 1967, he elaborated: “The best that can be said for either the square or the cube is that they are relatively uninteresting in themselves. . . . Released from… Full Review
March 27, 2018
The Menil Collection
Houston: The Menil Collection, 2017.
Menil Collection, Houston, April 14–August 27, 2017
In 1954, Ellsworth Kelly returned from his years in Paris to live and work in New York. By 1956, he settled on the Coenties Slip, at the very bottom of Manhattan, near his friend from Paris the abstract painter Fred Mitchell. Robert Indiana moved up the street later that year. In 1957, Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, and Jack Youngerman arrived there through word of mouth. In the early nineteenth century, the Coenties Slip had been one of many inlets of water just wide and long enough to hold docked trading ships on the active waterfront at the turn of the… Full Review
March 26, 2018
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
Atlanta: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, 2017.
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, February 9–May 20, 2017
For her new body of work, almost entirely composed of, or engaging with, durational media, such as video and film, Mickalene Thomas has re-created the same intimate, female domestic spaces of communion and solidarity as she sets up in her studio for her photo shoots. Islands of patterned carpet with ottomans covered by the familiar 1970s textiles invite the viewer to sit and interact with versions of her personal library, comprising books by Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin, among others. Conceived as an immersive and interactive environment—Thomas imagined, for example, that people could take home some… Full Review
March 26, 2018
James Meyer
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 384 pp.; 325 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9780226425108)
Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971. Exhibition schedule: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 30, 2016–January 29, 2017; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, March 19–September 10, 2017
Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971, the first museum exhibition to chronicle the eleven-year run of Virginia Dwan’s bicoastal gallery, anticipates the promised gift of the art dealer’s collection to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC. During a period of incredible transformation in American and European art, Dwan was at the forefront, mounting exhibitions that helped define trends as diverse as Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism, and land art. Dwan innovated in other ways as well: she was the first American dealer to operate simultaneously a gallery on each coast, with locations in Los… Full Review
March 23, 2018
The Print Center, Philadelphia, May 12–August 5, 2017
Yoonmi Nam’s Still was a simple, direct exhibition: three lithographs, three sculptures, and three Japanese woodblock prints (mokuhanga) displayed a single white room. While the sculptures rested on white perimeter plinths, Nam’s lithographs and woodblocks held the walls, delivering spare, nearly diagrammatic flora composed swimmingly on creamy paper. The presentation was elegant and normcore basic, except that the sculptures were facsimiles of throwaways, appearing to be bagged takeout food containers on their way to both table and trash. These tableaux were aptly titled Take Out, with parenthetical identifiers that repeated the obsequies printed on the bags: “Thank… Full Review
March 20, 2018
Ana Clara Silva and Eugenio Valdés Figueroa, eds.
Exh. cat. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2017. 404 pp.; 250 ills. $95.00 (9780692820735)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 5–May 21, 2017; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, November 11, 2017–March 18, 2018
A series of international flags stripped of their color by Wilfredo Prieto framed the entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s presentation of Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950. Titled Apolítico (Apolitical, 2001), Prieto’s gray-scale flags guarded the balcony of the second-floor gallery where the exhibition was on view, as if demarcating neutral ground for the oft-contested field of Cuban art. Visible just beyond Prieto’s muted palette, a burst of color belonging to over fifty posters dating to the 1960s and early 1970s boldly announced some of the original political and cultural aims of… Full Review
March 16, 2018
Bernard Herman
Eds Mark Sloan and Lizz Biswell Exh. cat. Charleston: Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston, 2016. 214 pp.; 114 color ills.; 3 b/w ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9781467574488)
Exhibition schedule: Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Hollie, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts, South Carolina, August 22–October 10, 2015.

Exhibition schedule: Lonnie Holley: I Snuck Off a Slave Ship, Atlanta Contemporary, January 12–April 2, 2017

A central (and not uncommon) problem confronts the curator of a white-box gallery who wishes to exhibit the work of Lonnie Holley, an Alabama-born artist and musician typically described as self-taught or vernacular: how to present the work within the conventions established by this type of institution while also acknowledging that the artist’s animating presence is necessary to the artworks’ significance. As Bernard L. Herman argues in a persuasive essay in Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Holley, the catalogue accompanying a 2015 exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, “Performance stands at the heart… Full Review
March 9, 2018
Agustín Arteaga
Exh. cat. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2017. 360 pp.; 209 color ills.; 87 b/w ills. Hardcover $50.00 (9780300229950)
Grand Palais, Paris, October 5, 2016–January 23, 2017; Dallas Museum of Art, March 12–July 16, 2017
“The narrative of this exhibition is a journey that sheds new light and permits new reflections on what has come to be oversimplified in the figures of ‘The Big Three’—Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—and in the ubiquitous phenomenon of Frida Kahlo” (20), writes Agustín Arteaga, the newly appointed Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). In his introductory essay for the México 1900–1950 catalogue, Arteaga emphasizes how the exhibition—featuring more than two hundred works in a range of media including prints, paintings, drawings, and film—challenges the notion that the artistic repertory… Full Review
March 6, 2018
Nicole R. Myers, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 136 pp.; 115 color ills. Paper $35.00 (9780300227055)
Dallas Museum of Art, December 4, 2016–March 19, 2017
The title to the exhibition Art and Nature in the Middle Ages at the Dallas Museum of Art appeared in large gilded letters set upon a forest-green wall and framed by a lush foliate border similar to those gracing late-medieval manuscripts. The glittering composition signaled that something beautiful waited around the corner. A small creature, outlined in gold and similarly lifted from lively Gothic illuminations, playfully peeked from a lower corner of the same wall, imparting a lighthearted sensibility. Both impressions held true for this collection of largely Romanesque and Gothic objects from the Musée de Cluny–Musée National du Moyen… Full Review
February 15, 2018