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

James Schmiechen and Kenneth Carls
Yale University Press, 1999. 352 pp.; 98 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300060645)
Britain's grand age of market hall construction, 1830-90, saw the transformation of traditional open-air markets into mammoth multi-storied buildings with standardized stalls and shops arranged within variations of a parallelogram. Often wrapped in a Gothic, Italianate, or eclectic shop-front façade, the market hall provided the modern townscape with a new and distinctive addition to an expanding range of civic and commercial structures, such as the town hall, courthouse, railway station, department store, arcade, and hotel. Prototype for the modern shopping mall, the market hall was a classroom where urban dwellers first learned to be consumers in the modern sense—mastering the… Full Review
October 29, 1999
David Craven
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 232 pp.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521434157)
Why "yet another study" of Abstract Expressionism? David Craven answers his own question by positing that his book discloses "new material," provides a "novel approach," and embodies "a shift in critical perspective" (p. 2) regarding the art historical analysis of what may well be American art's best known and most widely discussed style of painting. The new sources that Craven examines consist of two sets of previously unpublished materials: 200 pages of FBI files on various Abstract Expressionist artists (Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, and Lee Krasner); and a series of interviews with Meyer Schapiro… Full Review
October 26, 1999
Kerry Brown, ed.
New York and Palo Alto, Calif.: Routledge in association with Sikh Foundation, 1999. 217 pp.; 42 color ills.; 94 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (0415202892)
This long-awaited volume springs from a 1992 conference at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Sikh Art and Literature, held in conjunction with an exhibition focused on Sikh painting, Splendors of the Punjab: Art of the Sikhs. Generously illustrated with many color plates and almost one hundred pictures in black and white, the book provides a fine compilation of visual arts we may associate with Sikhism, including eighteenth- and nineteenth-century painting, architecture, and the artistic documentation of colonial observers, as well as, importantly, photography and paintings by contemporary Sikh artists. Essays concerning accomplished Sikh authors of the nineteenth and… Full Review
October 22, 1999
John O’Brian
University of Chicago Press, 1999. 297 pp.; 30 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0226616266)
John O'Brian's compact but ambitious book eludes categorization. Most obviously, it is the latest entry in the "modernism comes to America" genre. It is also a reception study more sophisticated than the usual "critical fortune" type, taking account of muted but tenacious ideologies as well as overt expressions of opinion and taste. Finally, the book positions itself within the recent trend of institutional histories in the art world, especially of museums and the trade in art. O'Brian's point of entry into this intersection of diverse fields is the art of Henri Matisse and the response to it in the United… Full Review
October 20, 1999
Christopher White
Yale University Press. (0300079532)
In 1969, Rembrandt's Etchings: An Illustrated Critical Catalogue by Christopher White and Karel Boon was published in an independent edition (Amsterdam: Van Gendt & Co. / London: A. Zwemmer Ltd. / New York: Abner Schram) and as part of the Hollstein series (F.W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Amsterdam 1949). More than three decades later, despite the steady stream of publications devoted to the artist's paintings and studio practices, White and Boon is still the most up-to-date catalogue raisonné of Rembrandt's etchings. At present, activity in this relatively quiet corner of Rembrandt… Full Review
October 15, 1999
Peter McNair, Robert Joseph, and Bruce Greenville, eds.
Seattle and Vancouver: University of Washington Press in association with Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 1998. 192 pp. Paper $30.00 (0295977094)
Natives from Puget Sound to Southeast Alaska have for centuries created remarkable and striking masks. These artworks are the subject Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast, the catalogue of an exhibition put on at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1998 and currently traveling about the United States and Canada. The two curators of the exhibit, Peter Macnair and Robert Joseph, join with Vancouver Art Gallery Senior Curator Bruce Greenville to present this lavishly illustrated compendium of masks from the late eighteenth century to the present. Macnair, Joseph and Greenville's project is ambitious. The curators' intention,… Full Review
October 13, 1999
Mark Cheetham, Keith Moxey, and Michael Ann Holly, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 336 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Cloth (0521454905)
The editors understand this collection of essays to be concerned with "the making of art-historical meaning." They divide the volume into sections that broadly categorize the subjects which art history has addressed since its origins in the nineteenth century: "Philosophy of History and Historiography," "The Subjects and Objects of Art History," and "Places & Spaces for Visual Studies." The variety of topics and approaches found in the essays themselves, mirrors, so the compilers argue, the diversity, eclecticism and heuristic procedures of present-day art history. In the introduction the editors locate current efforts towards interpreting art in a "postepistemological age," by… Full Review
October 8, 1999
Neil Leach
MIT Press, 1999. 101 pp.; 4 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $16.50 (0262621266)
Neil Leach's The Anaesthetics of Architecture proclaims itself a polemical work that aims to challenge the unrigorous thinking that has dominated architecture in recent years. The book stages this challenge as a critique of the image, only making explicit any association between the visual and the textual in its final pages. Leach's argument is that society has been completely aestheticized through the saturation by, and intoxication with, images, ultimately producing an anaesthetizing effect as manifested in the loss of criticality and the mindless consumption of everything from Coca-Cola to political movements and philosophical constructs. Leach ends by questioning whether "within… Full Review
October 8, 1999
Alice T. Friedman
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. 242 pp.; 30 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780300117899)
Alice Friedman begins her book Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History with the question, "Why were independent women clients such powerful catalysts for innovation in domestic projects?" She answers it through a series of case studies devoted to twentieth-century houses built for single women: the Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Aline Barnsdall, a wealthy producer of avant-garde theater who was also a friend of Emma Goldman; the Schroeder House, designed together by the cabinetmaker Gerrit Rietveld and his client and lover, Truus Schroeder; the Villa Stein-de Monzie, one of Le… Full Review
October 8, 1999
Shearer West, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 237 pp.; 31 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0521552230)
Anthologies are an excellent means of stimulating interest and additional research into underexplored areas of art history, and in this regard Shearer West's volume is right on target. It consists of nine essays on various aspects of the Italian cultural presence in transalpine Europe during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and is introduced by West's informative and comprehensive essay "Visual Culture, Performance Culture and the Italian Diaspora in the Long Eighteenth Century." West rightly claims that this book is the first sustained attempt to study the impact of Italian culture in northern Europe in the eighteenth century, and rightly… Full Review
October 8, 1999
Gary Michael Tartakov
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997. 153 pp.; 108 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0195633725)
For thirty years, a significant voice in Indian art-historical scholarship has been Gary Tartakov's, and though his interests and publications have varied, in this book he returns to his original area of expertise, the art of the Calukya dynasty (c. 542-757). The Durga temple (located in Aihole, Karnataka, a south Indian state) has inspired much scholarly speculation. Tartakov examines the Durga temple in two essays; in the first section he unpacks the layers of historiographic writings that engross this monument, and in the second essay he decodes the structure's form and function. Although the two essays are self-contained studies, each… Full Review
September 24, 1999
Herbert L. Kessler and Gerhard Wolf, eds.
Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale, 1998. 340 pp.; 167 b/w ills. Cloth (8877795158)
On August 15, 944 two sacred objects entered the city of Constantinople. One of these was a letter reputedly sent by Christ to King Abgar of Edessa. The other was a miraculous image of Christ impressed on a cloth and reportedly sent along with this letter. These objects were received with magnificent imperial ceremonial. Although they were soon secreted away within the Great Palace of Constantinople, the image/cloth itself was widely disseminated in Byzantine art. In time, the Holy Face was to become a key figure in Christian art of the Eastern and Western Middle Ages. This important and authoritative… Full Review
September 24, 1999
Victor I. Stoichita
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 345 pp.; 131 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521433932)
Victor I. Stoichita is one of the most imaginative younger art historians in Europe, and has recently burst into English-language publishers' lists. His books Visionary Experience in the Golden Age of Spanish Art and A Short History of the Shadow appeared with Reaktion Books (London) in 1995 and 1997. The book under review, also published in 1997, is a translation of L'Instauration du tableau: Metapeinture a l'aube des temps modernes (Paris: Meridiens Klinksieck, 1993). Each of these books is brimming with striking examples and lively, highly original arguments. The Self-Aware Image: An Insight into Early Modern Meta-Painting is about… Full Review
September 24, 1999
Amy McNair
Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998. 142 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (0824820029)
This book can be added to the small group of modern monographs on Chinese calligraphy that engage the art of calligraphy with the discipline of art history. It is a small book, only 142 pages of main text, but in many ways a model for writing on this difficult subject. McNair establishes the traditional Chinese belief in characterology-- reading the personality of a writer in his works--as a central basis for her own approach to understanding the calligraphy of Yan Zhenqing. Yan was, of course, one of the most heroic and admirable men of the Tang dynasty, a model of… Full Review
September 24, 1999
John T. Young
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. 136 pp.; 85 color ills. Paper $24.95 (0295977086)
This book is a collection of photographs of public art with associated notes from comments by the sculptors and others, together with the author's observations on a journey made in 1995. The photographs, whilst usually good, are by no means as complete records as the text intends, for example there being major details missing from the Monument to the Heroes of the People, 1959, and major works omitted, such as The Rent Collection Courtyard, 1965, even if these may not in 1995 have been open to the author. Nor does the author notice that some artists are from Taiwan, such… Full Review
September 8, 1999