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

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Diana Tuite, ed.
Waterville, ME and New Haven, CT: Colby College Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2021. 216 pp.; 155 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300253368)
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME, July 20, 2021–January 9, 2022; Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, February 10–May 15, 2022; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, June 18–September 11, 2022; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, October 9, 2022–January 8, 2023
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), an artist from Louisville, Kentucky, who participated in the Provincetown and New York art worlds of the late 1950s before embarking on extensive periods spent in London, Paris, Ibiza, and Rome, lived a brief but prolific life as a painter. He died in 1966 at the age of twenty-nine. Thompson’s work, with its distinctive motifs (a hatted man, mysterious birds, figures set in lush and ambiguous chromatic landscapes, and transformed quotations of art historical paintings), flowered in the eight years This House Is Mine covers, from 1958 until 1966. The show takes its title from a small… Full Review
January 19, 2022
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Chiyo Ishikawa
Exh. cat. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2021. 80 pp. Cloth $19.95 (9780932216779)
Seattle Art Museum, July 1–October 17, 2021
For my first museum visit in the pandemic, I was looking forward to spending an afternoon with this focused exhibition. The work was sparsely hung with the requisite six-foot distance of our current era in mind, giving the viewer a considerable amount of space, although making the paintings themselves appear small on the large and imposing walls. This show was organized around a single painting, the only one by Claude Monet (1840–1926) in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM): namely, Fishing Boats at Étretat (1885). The exhibition was curated by Chiyo Ishikawa, the museum’s former deputy… Full Review
December 14, 2021
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Matthias Mühling and Stephanie Weber, eds.
Exh. cat. Munich: Hirmer, 2021. 336 pp.; 245 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9783777433684)
Lenbachhaus, Munich, September 17, 2019–January 19, 2020; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, October 13–November 15, 2020; Denver Art Museum, December 13, 2020–April 11, 2021; Philadelphia Museum of Art, May 2–July 25, 2021
The year preceding Spring 2021, spent away from museums and most other social spaces, forced a collective recognition of our basic, fallible corporeality, of our relational occupation of space, and of our globally intertwined fates. Our spatial-social sensitivities had perhaps never before been so finely tuned, primed to appreciate the oeuvre of Senga Nengudi, who has engaged with such concerns since the beginning of her career in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), the recent exhibition of the artist’s work and its accompanying book, both titled Senga Nengudi: Topologies, offer an… Full Review
December 9, 2021
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Valerie Cassel Oliver
Exh. cat. Richmond, VA and Durham, NC: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in association with Duke University Press, 2021. 288 pp.; 140 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth (9781934351192)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, May 22–September 6, 2021; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, October 28, 2021–February 6, 2022; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, March 12–July 25, 2022; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, September 2022–February 2023
Throughout the summer of 2021, a white sedan with gold trim, a type affectionately known as a SLAB (acronym for “slow, loud, and banging”), was parked in the main atrium of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. The SLAB, a customized 1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance, designed by the New Orleans rapper Richard “Fiend” Jones and commissioned by the museum, joyfully and flamboyantly announced the long-anticipated opening of The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse. Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, The Dirty South brings together over 100 artists from the… Full Review
November 17, 2021
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Andrea Nelson, ed.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2020. 288 pp.; 8 color ills.; 269 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781942884743)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, July 2–October 3, 2021; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 31, 2021–January 30, 2022
In May 1914 Wilson’s Photographic Magazine devoted thirteen pages to a celebration of “how women have won fame in photography.” Apparently this triumph was short-lived, because, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, major museums have once again opened their galleries to photographs whose defining criterion for inclusion was the gender of their creators. Building on the ambitious Qui a peur des femmes photographes? 1839–1945 (Musée d’Orsay, 2015) and the Museum of Modern Art’s Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography (2010–11), the National Gallery’s The New Woman behind the Camera (first shown at the Metropolitan Museum… Full Review
November 2, 2021
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Connie H. Choi, Thelma Golden, and Kellie Jones
Exh. cat. New York: Rizzoli Electa, 2019. 232 pp. Cloth $45.00 (9780847866380)
Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, January 16–April 14, 2019; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC, May 24–August 18, 2019; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI, September 13–December 8, 2019; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, January 17–April 12, 2020; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, January 23–April 10, 2021; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, May 22–August 15, 2021
Coming upon Kevin the Kiteman, Jordan Casteel’s big 2016 painting in the galleries of Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, viewers might have been reminded of how the pandemic has utterly transformed urban experience. The piece opened a section of Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem focused on work by former artists-in-residence, the signature studio program of the famed New York institution. As Frye Art Museum curator Amanda Donnan describes in the catalog, the work was the result of a serendipitous encounter between painter and subject. When observing the busy plaza across the street from her studio at… Full Review
October 13, 2021
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Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, May 7–November 7, 2021
Up on a hill on San Francisco’s northwestern end, flanked by fluorescent green golf courts, stands the Legion of Honor, deep in perennial ocean fog. En français, the words Honneur et Patrie welcome tourists and the odd city resident to this neoclassical pavilion’s rigid symmetry, rhythmically marked by an Ionic colonnade. A larger-than-life-size man in bronze, Rodin’s Thinker, governs the courtyard. Caught in internal struggle, he famously cogitates on a pedestal. Installed throughout the museum’s permanent collection galleries is I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?, a solo exhibition of work by the acclaimed Kenyan American artist Wangechi Mutu… Full Review
September 21, 2021
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Shawnya L. Harris, ed.
Exh. cat. Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2021. 192 pp. Cloth $40.00 (9780915977468)
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, January 30–April 25, 2021; Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY, June 19–September 12, 2021; Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 11, 2021–January 2, 2022
A week before Emma Amos: Color Odyssey was set to close and four days before Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd, I invited my sister and niece to accompany me to Emma Amos’s retrospective at the Georgia Museum of Art, the first of three sites for the traveling exhibition. As we made the hour drive from Atlanta to Athens, news reports of Black bodies being killed by police lingered in the car, like unwelcome chaperones. Along with the current backlash against teaching the systemic racism that is the warp thread of the United States, these events… Full Review
September 16, 2021
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Joe Houston, Frances Follin, Michael J. Anderson, Rosie May, Roja Najafi, Beau R. Ott, and Catherine Shotick
Exh. cat. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 2021. 132 pp. Paper $25.99 (9780911919189)
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, February 20–May 16, 2021
Focusing on art forms often seen as mechanical and austere, the exhibition Moving Vision: Op and Kinetic Art from the Sixties and Seventies at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) offered a surprisingly humanistic and sensual take on those two closely related movements. The time is ripe for reevaluation of Op and Kinetic art, which were frequently dismissed by critics of their day due to the perception of the art’s easy consumption, coziness with industry and popular culture, and superficiality (one critic derided Op art as “empty spectacle,” for example). The OKCMOA exhibition countered that assessment by… Full Review
September 3, 2021
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Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, February 1–December 31, 2021
After Hope is a groundbreaking exhibition that rethinks not only the importance of contemporary video art in Asia but also the premises and goals of its exhibition site, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, whose main focus is traditional Asian art. The physical installation of the show comprises a six-and-a-half-hour loop of fifty-four videos and an “ephemera wall” of texts and images contributed by the artists. While the physical installation of the exhibit runs through December 31, 2021, a thought-provoking program of working groups, workshops and events, and a continually updated digital platform, afterhope.com, have been organized since… Full Review
August 16, 2021
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