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

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C/O Berlin, March 16–June 1, 2019
C/O Berlin, a nonprofit venue established in 2000 and solely dedicated to photography, celebrated Boris Mikhailov’s eightieth birthday with an exhibition of five series of photographs. Case History, I am not I, Suzi et cetera, Diary, and the most recent, Temptation of Death, cover his work since the 1960s, when Mikhailov, who worked as a train engineer in Kharkiv, Ukraine, began taking photographs. He is an autodidact whose early work depicts people he knew. His success as an artist began after 1990, and he has lived part-time in Berlin since the late 1990s. Although the… Full Review
January 6, 2020
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Paul R. Davis and Georges Petitjean
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Collection, 2019. 20 pp.; 11 color ills. Paper
Menil Collection, Houston, September 13, 2019–February 2, 2020
The undulating dotted lines of Mamultjunkunya (2009; pictured at left), by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri of the Pintupi language group, depict a site that appears, within the painting, to be in constant motion: Lake Mackay. This salt lake “features prominently” in the Tingari ceremonial cycle of Tjapaltjarri’s Western Desert region (15). Through song and dance, the ceremony recounts the ancestors’ fashioning of their “Country.” Within the gallery, Mamultjunkunya’s ripples muddle the eye-brain connection and, by extension, destabilize a sense of seeing and perhaps even of knowing. To an extent, the painting may be understood as a metaphor for one argument emerging… Full Review
December 20, 2019
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Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, January 19–July 6, 2019; Diboll Gallery, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, September 26, 2019–January 19, 2020
Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana was a richly textured exhibition on the gender-specific effects of incarceration on cisgender and trans women in the state. The show was centered around a group of over thirty currently and formerly incarcerated women whose life stories formed the basis of visual artworks and music created by a diverse group of artists based in and beyond Louisiana. The works in the show ranged in style and included sculpture, painting, video, installation, photography, and original music played throughout the galleries. Participating artists were selected by museum staff and community stakeholders. The Newcomb Art Museum collaborated with… Full Review
December 18, 2019
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Michael A. Brown, ed.
Exh. cat. San Diego and Madrid: San Diego Museum of Art in association with Ediciones El Viso, 2019. 200 pp.; 100 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780937108604)
San Diego Museum of Art, May 18–September 2, 2019
Art and Empire: The Golden Age of Spain at the San Diego Museum of Art was an exceptional exhibition overall, from the quality of the artworks (one-third of them from the San Diego Museum of Art) to its bilingual wall text and even the use of augmented reality. The art of “Golden Age Spain” brings with it many entrenched and long-standing assumptions, such as the revered status of seventeenth-century Spanish painting and the artists whose names have become associated with this period: Diego Velázquez, Jusepe de Ribera, and Francisco de Zurbarán among them. Art and Empire attempted to redefine our… Full Review
December 16, 2019
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Portland Art Museum, Oregon, March 30–October 13, 2019
Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Actor Prints was a delightful exhibition of a wide variety of Japanese woodblock prints, many on view for the first time. The prints were organized chronologically for the most part, beginning with the eighteenth century and ending with the twentieth. The choices of the curator, Jeannie Kenmotsu (assistant curator of Japanese art with the Japan Foundation), were excellent for a showcasing of numerous famous woodblock-print artists and their actor prints (yakusha-e) from the Kabuki theater celebrity culture. Detailed museum labels provided information for the uninformed viewer as well as specifics for the knowledgeable audience… Full Review
December 11, 2019
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Sasha Suda and Kirk Nickel, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Prestel, 2019. 296 pp.; 183 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783791358444)
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, April 6–September 8, 2019; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, October 12, 2019–January 5, 2020
The Early Rubens exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) is surely a visual feast to behold. With works drawn from a dizzying oeuvre that, given its prodigiousness and complexity, demands serious distilling, the exhibition succeeds in tackling key aspects of the monumental artistic output of Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) during his early mature period in a strikingly condensed and accessible manner. Surely, this is no small feat; for to paraphrase the erudite Rubens, one of the artist’s greatest ambitions was to provide… Full Review
December 10, 2019
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British Museum, London, November 29, 2018–August 4, 2019
“Understandings of history are rarely agreed and always shifting,” began the wall text that opened the British Museum’s Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives, in an effort to signal the exhibition’s investigation into the fraught legacy of James Cook (1728–1779), explorer and British Royal Navy captain. Rather than rehearsing well-known and tired narratives of Captain Cook as the heroic explorer and navigator, this exhibition attempted to reframe Cook’s legacy from the perspective of the people and places he impacted with his Pacific voyages. Thus, historical artifacts from Cook’s voyages were juxtaposed with artworks by contemporary Pacific Islanders that reveal their… Full Review
December 9, 2019
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José Esparza Chong Cuy, ed.
Exh. cat. Chicago and New York: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2019. 144 pp.; 100 ills. Paper $25.00 (9783791358390)
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 13–August 25, 2019
The latest iteration of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)’s Ascendant Artist series featured the Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade (born 1982). This series has the virtue of occasionally highlighting younger artists from the Global South, even as the museum itself trends more toward blockbuster shows that lionize designers and musicians rather than advanced art (to name a few, David Bowie Is, 2014–15; Takashi Murakami, 2017; and Virgil Abloh, 2019). Andrade’s North American reputation rests primarily on the film O Peixe (The fish; 2017), a haunting parody of the ethnographic gaze acquired by the MCA… Full Review
December 5, 2019
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Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman, eds.
Exh. cat. New Haven, CT and Washington, DC: Yale University Press in association with National Gallery of Art, 2018. 336 pp.; 240 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300230406)
Palazzo Ducale, Venice, September 7, 2018–January 6, 2019; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, March 24–July 7, 2019
Visitors were nearly denied the opportunity to experience the first major exhibition in the United States of the monumental work of Venetian Renaissance artist Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19–1594). Though the show was originally slated to open March 3, 2019, a shutdown of the US federal government grounded preparations for Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC. It is a testament to the commitment of lenders, dedicated efforts of NGA staff, and the work of its curators, Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman, that the exhibition opened three weeks later. Although the mechanics… Full Review
November 21, 2019
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McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, June 20–September 15, 2019
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, June 20–September 15, 2019
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, June 20–September 15, 2019
Across the United States, museums are eager to present identity-based shows addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and identity during the fiftieth-anniversary year of the 1969 Stonewall uprisings. This year, the McNay Art Museum dedicated its entire temporary exhibition program to such an effort, with Andy Warhol: Portraits, Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today, and TransSanAntonian: Examining Trans Identities and Gender Fluidity in the Archives. These three exhibitions constituted a broad consideration of contemporary artists undermining the entrenched gender binary and historical sexual normativity. Transamerica/n, the largest of the three temporary exhibitions, presented a wide range of artists… Full Review
November 15, 2019
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