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

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Alice Isabella Sullivan
Visualising the Middle Ages, Volume: 15. Leiden: Brill, 2023. 406 pp. Cloth GPB99.17 (9789004529045)
Standard narratives on medieval art focus on Western Europe and conventional stylistic and geo-chronological categories of early medieval, Romanesque, and Gothic; the latter associated with “later medieval art.” Medieval art in and of Eastern Europe is habitually tied to Christian Orthodoxy, identified with Byzantine art, and considered a separate research arena with its own categories: Early, Middle, and Late Byzantine periods, associated with prominent rulers, so also known as Justinianic, Komnenian, and Palaeologan periods. Medieval art of the Slavs is frequently isolated within the narratives about the arts of current nation-states. Wider narratives customarily examine the art of the Slavs… Full Review
March 20, 2024
Catherine Seavitt Nordenson
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2023. 336 pp. $34.95 (9781477327609)
Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx is well known for his groundbreaking production of tropical gardens and public landscape projects within the history of modern Brazilian architecture. Still, he also had an essential role as an activist for environmental preservation. Catherine Nordenson’s book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes under Dictatorship, is a crucial contribution as it reveals Burle Marx’s systematic role as a government councilor defending cultural and environmental preservation. While working on emblematic landscape architecture projects and having a good political transit, the architect used his social position to denounce deforestation and threats to the natural… Full Review
Holly Borham, ed.
Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, 2023. 163 pp. $39.95 (9781646570348)
In 2002, Leo Steinberg donated 3,648 prints from his collection to the Blanton Museum. In a talk there the following year he succinctly said why prints were so important for the study of early modern art: “I had escaped graduate school and was discovering that, for the art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, prints were the circulating lifeblood of ideas." That statement provided curator Holly Borham with an inspired title for this richly illustrated and illuminating catalog that so well describes the work of prints in Steinberg’s writing and thinking about art. The lecture, eventually published in an essay… Full Review
March 6, 2024
Maggie Popkin
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2023. 346 pp. Cloth $99.99 (9781316517567)
Kimberly Cassibry
New York: Oxford University Press, 2023. 320 pp. Cloth GPB64.00 (9780190921897)
Released nearly contemporaneously and with substantial overlap in their corpora, the two volumes under review, Maggie Popkin’s Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome and Kimberly Cassibry’s Destinations in Mind: Portraying Places on the Roman Empire’s Souvenirs share similar agendas—to take seriously the portable, small-scale representations of popular sights and pastimes that recur in the material record of the Roman Empire. Despite these similarities, Popkin and Cassibry take different approaches in achieving their goal and consequently offer distinct yet complementary insights. Popkin’s Souvenirs opens with an introductory chapter establishing key terms and methodological frameworks. The book then proceeds… Full Review
February 28, 2024
Adam Jasienski
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2023. 232 pp.; 50 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. $119.00 (9780271093444)
Charles V never rode his horse into the 1547 battle of Mühlberg. Instead, he spent his time during that conflict on a litter suffering from gout. But Titian’s triumphal equestrian portrait of the king betrays no hint of weakness—physical or otherwise. The monarch sits aloft on a decorous steed, clad in armor, serenely looking beyond the picture plane. He exerts complete control over his horse, his body, and, of course, the spiritual purity of his kingdom (Mühlberg was a decisive victory over Protestant rebels). Politics and religion obliquely congeal in this homage to the king’s might. Nevertheless, it remains a… Full Review
February 22, 2024
Yeon Shim Chung, Sunjung Kim, Kimberly Chung, and Keith B. Wagner
Phaidon, 2020. 360 pp.; 410 color ills. Cloth $79.95 ('9780714878331)
Virginia Moon, ed.
Exh. cat. DelMonico Books in association with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2024. 328 pp.; 228 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9781636810584)
Amidst the international recognition of South Korean art since the 1990s, scholars have devoted increasing attention to Korean modernism and contemporary practices. Following pioneering studies such as Youngna Kim’s Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea (2005) and Charlotte Horlyck’s Korean Art from the 19th century to the Present (2017), two recent publications present English readership with additional insights into the styles, mediums, and subjects of Korean art from the past century: Korean Art From 1953: Collision, Innovation and Interaction (Phaidon, 2020) and the exhibition catalog The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art (2022). The year 1953, marking the beginning… Full Review
January 24, 2024
Amanda Wangwright
Brill, 2020. 168 pp. Cloth $63.00 (9789004441903 )
As the latest addition to Brill’s Modern Asian Art and Visual Culture series, Amanda Wangwright’s The Golden Key: Modern Women Artists and Gender Negotiations in Republican China (1911–1949) complicates our understanding of the agency of women in the making of art in late imperial and modern China alongside Yuhuang Li’s Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press, 2020) and Ying-chen Peng’s Artful Subversion: Empress Dowager Cixi’s Image Making (Yale University Press, 2023). The Golden Key excavates the long-forgotten history of women artists (nühuajia), which Wangwright regards as “a distinctly modernized social… Full Review
January 17, 2024
Holley Moyes, Allen J. Christenson, and Frauke Sachse, eds.
Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2021. 348 pp.; 89 b/w ills. Cloth $108.00 (9781607323389)
The Popol Vuh is a record of the mythology and history of the K’iche’ Maya people dating to the mid-1500s. Its authors—members of the local Maya elite—wrote down their most valuable stories to preserve them from the destruction inflicted by the European colonizers upon the Maya people, including the burning of their pre-Hispanic manuscripts. The book was hidden and miraculously survived, becoming the only surviving Maya text from that period and region. Many of the stories told in its pages can also be seen in images depicted on ancient Maya stelae and ceramic vases, and even in the built environment… Full Review
January 10, 2024
Ross Barrett
Oakland, CA: University of Califoria Press, 2022. 256 pp.; 85 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520343917)
Years ago, as a graduate student researching Winslow Homer, I drove a rental car to Prouts Neck to get a better sense of the views the artist painted when living on the Maine coast. What I found was a single road leading to a mile-wide promontory well marked with signs accusing me of trespassing. Reluctant to turn back, I parked along the last stretch of public road and walked furtively past manicured gardens and stately summer residences towards Homer’s studio (which at the time had not yet opened to the public). As I walked, it became increasingly clear that I… Full Review
December 20, 2023
Jasmina Tumbas
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022. 344 pp. Hardcover £70.00 (9781526156471)
Both embodied and conceptual, bridge and barricade, “Jugoslovenka”—the name for a Yugoslav woman—is the complex prism through which Jasmina Tumbas offers her rich transnational history of performance art from the formation through the fall of socialist Yugoslavia. The history of performative politics that Tumbas has written is structured by paradox and contradiction, as illustrated by her comparative look at two photographs of Dragana Milojević, a woman attending a demonstration against Slobodan Milošević in Belgrade on March 9, 1991. In the first photograph, Milojević appears to stand defiantly in front of a crowd, with her arm above her head and her… Full Review
December 18, 2023