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

Browse Recent Exhibition Reviews

Nicole R. Fleetwood
Exh. cat. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. 352 pp.; 95 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780674919228)
MoMA PS1, Queens, September 17, 2020–April 5, 2021
There is no inside/outside when it comes to the carceral state. Guest curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood at MoMA PS1 and accompanied by a catalog published by Harvard University Press, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration reckons with how incarceration transforms lives and how, under and against its violent conditions, people make art as a tactic of survival. Incarceration dismantles communities, disproportionately Black and Latinx ones; enforces mass caging; and disenfranchises people long after their sentences end. It is a world-defining system, so much so that it requires new forms of knowledge—beyond art history’s limited gaze—to meaningfully… Full Review
May 12, 2021
Adrienne L. Childs
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and New York: Phillips Collection in association with Rizzoli Electa, 2020. 208 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780847866649)
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, February 29, 2020–January 3, 2021
(Click here to view the online exhibition.) “Modernism was seen as a huge moment historically and culturally—this was the language of the oppressor” (58). Black artist Sanford Biggers made this statement in 2018 while contemplating the role that German art historian Carl Einstein’s book Negerplastik played in introducing him to African sculpture and its transformative potential. When considered alongside Biggers’s 2016 work of the same name—featuring a repurposed quilt with a geometric pattern and an upright, floral-patterned sculptural figure casting a shadow—the statement captures the tug and pull of both African art and European interest in it for Black artists… Full Review
March 25, 2021
Nathaniel Silver
Exh. cat. Boston and New Haven, CT: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 256 pp.; 115 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300249866)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, February 13–October 12, 2020
(Click here to view the online gallery guide.) I remember the first time I saw John Singer Sargent’s Thomas McKeller (ca. 1917–20) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (acquired in 1986), while gathering comparative material for my research on James Richmond Barthé (1901–1989), whose oeuvre is dominated by Black male nudes. The painting and accompanying sketches are the only known true-life depictions of McKeller, and, like in Sargent’s Madame X (1884), the model looked away from the artist, obscuring what could have been a factual portrait. Although for different reasons, both portraits remained in Sargent’s possession (and thus unknown… Full Review
March 23, 2021
Koffler.Digital, Koffler Centre of the Arts, Toronto, 2019–ongoing
(Click here to view the online exhibition.) Under the direction of Letticia Cosbert Miller, There Are Times and Places appears on Koffler.Digital, the web platform of Toronto’s Koffler Centre of the Arts. Launched in 2019, the show is ideal for the homebound circumstances of 2021. It features original projects by Wuulhu, Mani Mazinani, Coco Guzmán, and collaborators asinnajaq and Dayna Danger, all designed to be rendered on a web browser. This strategy hearkens back to the early days of net art, but it has received renewed attention as the conditions of the pandemic highlight the importance of exhibitions that directly… Full Review
February 11, 2021
Margaret C. Adler, Jennifer R. Henneman, Diana Jocelyn Greenwold, and Claire M. Barry
Exh. cat. Denver and New Haven, CT: Denver Art Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 224 pp.; 179 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300246100)
Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Fredric Remington, Denver Art Museum, June 26–September 7, 2020; (as Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington) Portland Museum of Art, Maine, September 25–November 29, 2020; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, December 22, 2020–February 28, 2021
Drawing on sixty artworks, Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington, presented by the Denver Art Museum (DAM), sought to explore the artists’ visual responses to an era that was simultaneously rife with war, displacement and genocide of Indigenous peoples, racial inequities, and economic downturns while also hopeful for the possibilities of a prosperous future. The exhibit was co-organized by a team of four curators, including the Denver Art Museum’s Thomas Brent Smith, curator and director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, and Jennifer R. Henneman, associate curator of Western American art; Diana Greenwold, curator… Full Review
February 2, 2021
Melissa Blanchflower, Natalia Grabowska, and Melissa Larner, eds.
Exh. cat. Serpentine Gallery, London, United Kingdom. Cologne: Walther König, 2019. 160 pp.; 60 color ills.; 2 b/w ills. Paper £18.00 (9781908617576)
Serpentine Gallery, London, June 6–September 8, 2019
The Serpentine Gallery in London was recently the site of an important solo exhibition dedicated to the American artist and activist Faith Ringgold. The show was a welcome homage to an important figurative painter and craft maker, whose narratives have addressed issues of African American identity and gender inequality for half a century. The exhibition was small but exhaustive, offering examples of Ringgold’s work from the 1960s to the 2010s. By marking the traces of the artist’s commitment through her figurative works, the show enabled viewers to recount the narrative of her experience as a Black American woman in the… Full Review
January 26, 2021
Eleanor Jones Harvey
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and Princeton, NJ: Smithsonian American Art Museum in association with Princeton University Press, 2020. 448 pp.; 215 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780691200804)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, September 18, 2020–January 3, 2021 (reopening 2021)
(Click here to view the exhibition website and related content.) The basis of the exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is just a blip in history: six weeks. That is the amount of time that the show’s central figure, Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), spent in the United States in 1804. But curator Eleanor Jones Harvey wants us to realize that this brief stay planted a seed of influence that was “immediate, sustained, and profound” (26). On the tail end… Full Review
January 19, 2021
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, in person (May 21–August 23, 2020) and online (ongoing)
(Click here to view the exhibition in English, or click here to view in Spanish.) To Tame a Wild Tongue: Art after Chicanismo uses the aftermath of the Chicano Art Movement (1960s–70s) as a point of departure to bring together over twenty-five artists active since the 1980s who explore the distinct yet interconnected sociopolitical paradigms of contemporary Chicanidad. This digital, collection-based exhibition invites us into an important conversation about belonging, resistance, and identity through a transborder perspective. To Tame a Wild Tongue explores the idea of cultural hybridity by considering how Chicanx and Latinx artists in the United States… Full Review
December 1, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. Explore two exhibitions on Detroit's 1960s civil rights rebellions and consider their continuing impact on the social justice movements of today. Read more in Nicholas Miller's review of Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement at Detroit Institute of Arts and Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion at the Museum of African American History. Full Review
November 9, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. This week, we revisit a group of exhibitions at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, that centered transgender artists and their stories. For more read Martha Scott Burton’s review of Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today, Andy Warhol: Portraits, and TransSanAntonian: Examining Trans Identities and Gender Fluidity in the Archives. Full Review
October 26, 2020