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

Reviews in are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Catherine de Zegher, ed.
MIT Press, 1999. 304 pp.; 47 color ills.; 97 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (026204174X)
International Center for Photography, New York, July 29-October 1, 2000; in collaboration with The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, July 15-October 8, 2000.
Like other post-conceptual artists of her generation who adapted the 1960s' formal convention of the series to sustained analytical investigations of social phenomena (think of Allan Sekula's Aerospace Folktales, for example, or Mary Kelly's Postpartum Document), Martha Rosler has produced a body of work over the last thirty-five years that has proven difficult to assimilate to the promotional ways and means of the art world. From her photodocumentary-cum-image/text work The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1973-74), through videos such as Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) and critical essays such as "Lookers, Buyers, Dealers, and Makers" (1979), to… Full Review
September 29, 2000
Benjamin Buchloh
MIT Press, 2001. 576 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Cloth (0262024543)
This is a terrific collection of essays that provides a valuable opportunity to review the intellectual development and ambitions of one of the leading critics of our time. It offers access to the author's enterprise from a distinctive vantage point: saving for a second volume his influential period and approach studies--essays such as "Formalism and Historicity" (1977), "Allegorical Procedures" (1982), and "Cold War Constructivism" (1990)--and his well-known "from/to" critical developmental surveys of art movements--such as "From Faktura to Factography" (1984), "From Gadget Video to Agit Video" (1985), and his forceful summary essay on Conceptual Art subtitled, "From the Aesthetic of… Full Review
September 27, 2000
Kalman P. Bland
Princeton University Press, 2001. 233 pp. Paper $19.95 (069108985x)
"Art history is what one Jew tells another Jew about goyishe (i.e.--Christian) art." This, at any rate, is how my teacher, Stephen S. Kayser, flippantly spoke of his discipline. Kayser, a member of the German émigré generation, author of an important study on Grünewald's Isenheim altarpiece and founding director of the Jewish Museum in New York, was not far from wrong. Highly acculturated Jews have been disproportionately represented in the ranks of art historians. Among the "greats" of art history, one may think of Berenson, Goldschmidt, Panofsky, Warburg, Gombrich, Schapiro, Krautheimer, and this list is far from complete. While Jews… Full Review
September 24, 2000
John Gage
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 320 pp.; 37 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520220390)
John Gage's book Color and Culture appeared with considerable acclaim in 1994, and it won that year's Mitchell Prize for art history. It was a dense, ambitious, yet readable exploration of color in Western art from the Classical era to the 20th century--or rather, of ideas about color, since Gage gave more attention to writings about the subject than to actual examples of practice. For instance, he devoted far more space to Matisse's "Notes d'un peintre" (1908) and other written and spoken observations about his approach to color than to the painting Red Studio (1911), used to illustrate Matisse's notions… Full Review
September 20, 2000
Elizabeth Alice Honig
Yale University Press, 1998. 308 pp.; 24 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300072392)
Modestly reproduced, Sebastian Vrancx's unfamiliar Harbor with the Children of Mercury (Musée Massey, Tarbes) is an unlikely opener for this provocative and intelligent book, which seeks to establish the market as a central concern of pictorial culture in Antwerp between 1550 and 1650. It is a mark of Elizabeth Honig's distinction as a writer that, through three paragraphs of precise description, she convinces the reader that this apparently innocuous painting of the tricks of all those who labor under the aegis of Mercury, from quacks and merchants to actors and artists, epitomizes the self-consciousness with which Flemish artists painted arguments… Full Review
September 8, 2000
Christopher S. Wood, ed.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Zone Books, 2000. 472 pp.; 39 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (1890951145)
Christopher S. Wood has done a great service in editing an anthology of previously untranslated works from the second "Viennese School." In theoretical essays and case studies published in the nineteen twenties and thirties, these art historians tried to breathe new life into formal analysis, self-consciously combining analyses of spatial coherence with interpretations drawn from contemporary psychology and artistic practice. Wood has revisited, reconsidered, and made available to the English-speaking public, in readable translations, the work of these almost forgotten scholars, including Hans Sedlmayr, Otto Pächt, Guido Kaschnitz von Weinberg, and Fritz Novotny, along with responses to their work by… Full Review
September 8, 2000
Kurt Weitzmann and Massimo Bernabo
Princeton University Press, 1999. 880 pp.; 23 color ills.; 1,552 b/w ills. Cloth $295.00 (0691007225)
Not too many books being published these days were begun in 1932 or are dedicated to someone who died in 1955 (Charles Rufus Morey). But this is hardly an average book by any standard: size and number of pages, quantity of illustrations, or length of preparation. Its subject is the six illustrated manuscripts of the Octateuchs, the first eight books of the Septuagint, the Hebrew Bible in Greek. As Kurt Weitzmann, long the eminent Byzantinist at Princeton, writes in the first of the book's two prefaces (XI), he was led to the topic by a conversation in 1932 with his… Full Review
September 6, 2000
Mario Bevilacqua
Naples: Mondadori Electa, 1998. 224 pp.; some color ills.; many b/w ills. Paper $50.00 (8843587544)
Baroque Rome was in large part built by talented Lombards, among whom were Domenico Fontana, Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini, and Carlo Fontana. A native of the diocese of Como, Giovanni Battista Nolli (1701-56) was a surveyor (geometra) who, between the years 1722 and 1734, prepared cadastral maps, first in Lombardy and then in Savoy, utilizing the plane table (tavoletta pretoriana), a device then only recently introduced into Italy. In Rome, no longer a functionary within a centralized state bureaucracy, he put his cartographic skills to entrepreneurial use in devising a plan, published in 1748, that was… Full Review
September 1, 2000
Mitchell Merback
University of Chicago Press, 1999. 280 pp.; 30 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $42.00 (0226520153)
Recent decades have seen a number of inventive studies that have added significantly to our understanding of medieval and early modern images of the Crucifixion, from James Marrow's analysis of Passion iconography in Northern art to Anne Derbes's examination of the impact of Franciscan devotional piety on medieval Italian art. No less inventive is Mitchell Merback's book, which plunges us into the world of judicial spectacle, for it is this author's central claim that "late medieval realist painters presented the sacred scene of the Crucifixion in terms of their own, but more importantly their audience's, experiences with criminal justice… Full Review
August 31, 2000
Megan Holmes
Yale University Press, 1999. 160 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth (0300081049)
Megan Holmes's beautifully-illustrated book on Fra Filippo Lippi sets a standard for the study of Florentine Renaissance art by demonstrating how much more remains to be done, even for an artist who has been the object of study for centuries. Florentine Renaissance art is, after all, one of the oldest fields of art history, and the bibliography is extensive. Writers since the late quattrocento have reveled in the beauty of the works, and already in the sixteenth century Vasari had established a trajectory for the field as well as the emphasis on the individual artist that still commands our interest… Full Review
August 28, 2000
Jody Blake
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 207 pp. Cloth $65.00 (0271017538)
As a reflex of the growing resistance among European intellectuals in industrialized societies to glaring colonialist appropriations, an avant-garde emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which adopted an open-minded anthropological perspective. Rejecting racially tainted claims of the superiority of Western cultural traditions, it proposed a series of expressive theories that valued the authenticity and originality of the "primitive." After World War I, however, and notably since the twenties when a "Call to Order" was issued, a different attitude supervened critics, extolling High Art in terms of a timeless, present, assimilated art négre to the purist forms of… Full Review
August 24, 2000
Gordon Baldwin and Judith Keller
Getty Trust Publications, 1999. (089236565X)
Candace Breitz
Thalwil and Pittsburgh: Edition Stemmle in association with Andy Warhol Museum, 1999. 400 pp.; 12 color ills.; 300 b/w ills. (3908163102)
It is not hard to see the significance of photography—as idea, as technology, as way of seeing—to Andy Warhol's art. His most famous paintings are appropriated photographs (think of the Marilyns, Jackies, race riots, electric chairs, or the commissioned portraits) and they visually signify as such. Moreover, Warhol's method for making use of photography—silkscreen—mimics the process of technological reproduction that characterizes photography. (Warhol: "With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way, you get the… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Norman L. Kleeblatt and Kenneth E. Silver, eds.
Exh. cat. Prestel in association with The Jewish Museum, 1998. 207 pp.; 32 color ills.; many b/w ills. $65.00 (3791319329)
The Jewish Museum, New York, NY; Apr. 26-Aug. 16, 1998.
It is rare that an exhibition pushes curatorial conventions, particularly in a monographic show which is so dependent on the stylistic development of an artist. The exhibition An Expressionist in Paris: The Paintings of Chaim Soutine held at the Jewish Museum (1998), however, bypassed standard organizational principles of chronology or thematic genres and concentrated, instead, on the history of Soutine's critical reception. The unorthodox groupings allowed us to look at Soutine, as well as the apparatus of art criticism, anew. To be sure, as the first retrospective of the artist's work to be organized in thirty years, our eyes were… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Pierre Rosenberg
Exh. cat. Yale University Press, 1999. 360 pp.; 99 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300083483)
Royal Academy of the Arts, London, March 11–May 29, 2000; in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 27–September 3, 2000.
Emblazoned on the cover of the Louvre's new Chardin exhibition catalogue is the image of a girl child holding a racquet and shuttlecock but curiously made-up and dressed like an adult woman. Her cheeks are rouged, her hair is powdered and she wears a circlet of ribbon tied enticingly around a slim white neck. In contrast to the solemn abstract beauty of Basket of Wild Strawberries splashed on the Louvre's 1979 Chardin exhibition catalogue, this detail, taken from Girl with Shuttlecock, cuts a different sort of figure, one speaking directly to the sensibilities of the 1990s. Chardin's representation of… Full Review
August 23, 2000
Cary Y. Liu and Dora C.Y. Ching, eds.
Princeton University Art Museum, 1999. many b/w ills. Paper (0943012309)
Chinese art scholarship is undergoing invigorating change, in tandem with the larger field of art history but with special characteristics of its own. The book under review illuminates the political and cultural significance of painting during the first two dynasties of China's early modern period: the Sung (960-1279) and the Yuan (1279-1368). The original occasion for this volume's seven papers was a symposium held in conjunction with the 1996 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Splendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taiwan. A welcome openness to a variety of approaches is nicely reflected in… Full Review
August 23, 2000