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

Reviews in caa.reviews 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

Steven J. Cody
Brill's Studies in Intellectual History 314/47. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2020. 312 pp.; 74 color ills. Cloth $155.00 (9789004430150)
The luminous color, palpable atmosphere, and graceful Madonnas of Andrea del Sarto’s paintings have entranced viewers for centuries. In Steven J. Cody’s aptly titled Andrea del Sarto: Splendor and Renewal in the Renaissance Altarpiece, a series of case studies offers an explanation for this aesthetic attraction and the deep spirituality of the artist’s paintings. Six chapters, each devoted to a single altarpiece, analyze Andrea’s pictures from various angles: the commissioning of the projects; the impact of religious doctrine on the iconography and style of the altarpieces; and the art theory underpinning his practice. A comprehensive introduction sets forth the… Full Review
June 18, 2021
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K. L. H. Wells
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019. 280 pp.; 59 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth $59.00 (9780300232592)
With Weaving Modernism: Postwar Tapestry between Paris and New York, author K. L. H. Wells, associate professor of American art and architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, proposes a reassessment of modernism’s relationship to decoration through an examination of modernist tapestries produced after World War II. Wells asserts that the indeterminate positioning of tapestry as a French luxury craft with “masculine prestige” gave it a “privileged position within postwar modernism,” a position attributable to its being “both elite and marginal” (6–7). Over four chapters, Wells considers the prevalence of postwar tapestries and the way in which tapestry expanded the… Full Review
June 16, 2021
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Claudia Schmuckli
Exh. cat. Petaluma, CA: Cameron Books, 2021. 224 pp.; 125 color ills. Paper $45.00 (9781951836009)
Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI. de Young Museum, San Francisco, February 22, 2020–June 27, 2021
Between late February 2020, when the de Young Museum’s exhibition Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI originally opened, and when it reopened in spring 2021, the show—one of the first devoted solely to contemporary artworks about artificial intelligence—has only become more apt. Those fortunate enough to shelter in place throughout the pandemic have experienced life through the mediation of intelligent machines to an unprecedented extent. AI has proliferated in recent years in large part because it thrives on the vast quantities of data extracted from our time spent on web platforms. As work and life migrated online… Full Review
June 14, 2021
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New Tretyakov Galllery, Moscow, December 25, 2019–March 29, 2020
The Moscow Design Museum was founded in 2012, at a time when Soviet design was gaining popularity among both Western and Eastern European historians of the Soviet Union and late socialism. Since then, the museum has staged temporary exhibitions in different venues in Russia and abroad. In 2019, however, it became a permanent part of the western wing of the New Tretyakov Gallery on Krymskii val in Moscow. The show Peace! Friendship! Design! The History of Russian Industrial Design was the first step toward establishing the museum’s permanent exhibition space. Curated by Azat Romanov, Olga Druzhinina, and Aleksandra Sankova and… Full Review
June 11, 2021
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Janis A. Tomlinson
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020. 448 pp.; 35 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780691192048)
Retratos, or portraits, come in different varieties in Spanish culture. There are, of course, portraits and self-portraits like the ones Francisco de Goya y Lucientes produced in abundance: visual representations of the subject—usually though not always human—created to commemorate individuals, to preserve likenesses for posterity, and to serve as models for emulation. These might be meticulous renderings of physical features and dress, idealized portrayals that flattered their subject, or perceptive reflections of the sitter’s mind and heart through a steely gaze, a furrowed brow, or an impish grin. Early modern portraits identified as verdaderos retratos, or true portraits… Full Review
June 9, 2021
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Arthur J. DiFuria
Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2019. 548 pp.; 380 color ills. Cloth $165.00 (9789004380462)
Maarten van Heemskerck (1498–1574) is best known as the author of the earliest and largest corpus of Netherlandish drawings of Rome and its ruins, made during the years he spent in the Eternal City after the 1527 sack. These drawings are the primary subject of Arthur J. DiFuria’s book, which concludes with a catalog. DiFuria’s commendable task throughout the book is to place these drawings in the context of Heemskerck’s training and overall artistic vision, and of the cult of ruins and memory in sixteenth-century Rome and the Netherlands. Part 1 focuses on the pre-Roman Heemskerck, in an era of… Full Review
June 7, 2021
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Go Hirasawa, Ann Adachi-Tasch, and Julian Ross, eds.
Trans. Yuzo Sakuramoto and Colin Smith. Berlin: Archive Books, 2020. 222 pp. Paper €15.00 (9783948212292)
In 2016 the Tate Modern and International Film Festival Rotterdam presented Throwing Shadows: Japanese Expanded Cinema in the Time of Pop, a series of screenings and events accompanied by a symposium. The program included restagings of live cinema performances by Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver, Rikuro Miyai, and Jun’ichi Okuyama decades after their original inception and, for the first time, for audiences in the UK. Unlike extant single-screen works of experimental film, expanded cinema and intermedia often involves multiple projection sources and multiple surfaces upon which images are projected, and typically includes live, performative elements that respond in real time to… Full Review
June 4, 2021
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Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, September 29, 2019–January 26, 2020; MIT List Visual Arts Center (online), Cambridge, MA, October 16, 2020–February 14, 2021
No Wrong Holes: Thirty Years of Nayland Blake offered the most comprehensive survey of Blake’s work to date, traveling to the MIT List Visual Arts Center from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition was organized in a loose chronology, showcasing the artist’s ongoing struggle to contain the multiplicity of lived experiences within one body or one object. For Blake this struggle is a generative one, producing work that can inhabit or frame the incongruencies between the realities of livelihood and forms of representation. As Blake is a biracial (African American and white), queer person, their multidisciplinary practice… Full Review
June 2, 2021
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Christine Y. Kim and Rujeko Hockley
Exh. cat. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with Prestel, 2019. 320 pp.; 450 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9783791358741)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, November 3, 2019–September 7, 2020; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, October 24, 2020–January 31, 2021; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 25–August 8, 2021; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, October 16, 2021–March 6, 2022
Five years in the making and developed in close collaboration with the artist by Christine Y. Kim (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Rujeko Hockley (Whitney Museum of American Art), Julie Mehretu presents over two decades of the artist’s compelling work. The exhibition demonstrates how Mehretu’s practice, rooted in drawing, the global history of painting, and an evolving engagement with materials, surfaces, and spaces, achieves unprecedented monumentality without sacrificing the intimacy of mark making and imagery. Consistent with the novelty of Mehretu’s art, Kim and Hockley’s artistic organization of the accompanying catalog enriches the viewer’s engagement with the artwork… Full Review
June 1, 2021
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BuYun Chen
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019. 272 pp.; 96 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780295745305)
Mariachiara Gasparini
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2019. 278 pp.; 20 color ills.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $74.00 (9780824877989)
Eiren L. Shea
Routledge Research in Art History. New York: Routledge, 2020. 206 pp.; 30 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $124.00 (9780367356187)
The three books reviewed here represent recent monographs on dress and textiles and their movements along the Silk Roads in the medieval and early modern periods. The study of dress and textiles has often been marginalized in art history, and the materials dismissed as minor or decorative arts—a marginality that is compounded by the limited survival of textiles and garments from earlier historical periods, which sometimes remain only as reused scraps. Textiles have been recognized as evidence for the exchange of ideas and technologies across Eurasia, as markers of trade, cultural contact, and interaction, but far less frequently as visual-culture… Full Review
May 28, 2021
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Lei Xue
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019. 240 pp.; 8 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780295746364)
At the end of Eulogy for Burying a Crane and the Art of Chinese Calligraphy, Lei Xue describes seeing boulders that had been hauled out of the muddy waters of the Yangtze River at the island of Jiaoshan in modern-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. This highly publicized and costly expedition was meant to salvage the remaining fragments of the famous Eulogy for Burying a Crane (Yi he ming, hereafter Eulogy) stone inscription dated to 514 CE that had partially collapsed into the river. In the eleventh century, the inscription was only visible in the wintry months when the water… Full Review
May 27, 2021
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Anneka Lenssen
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 296 pp.; 57 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520343245)
How did artists in Syria develop Arab modernist painting and aesthetic philosophies at the start of a century characterized by warfare and in the midst of the violent imposition of borders by colonial powers, the displacement of people, and the assignment of new identities? Anneka Lenssen’s Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria explores the question of modern art’s place in this turbulent era. The book is an authoritative study of the emergence of modernist art in the context of contemporary politics and territorial contestations in Syria, spanning from the last years of the Ottoman Empire through 1965… Full Review
May 24, 2021
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Marni Reva Kessler
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021. 320 pp.; 12 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781517908805)
In a rapidly growing canon of scholarship on food in art, Marni Reva Kessler adds her personal voice and unique approach to the subject in Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art. In four chapters on depictions of fish, butter, fruit, and ham by French artists Édouard Manet, Antoine Vollon, Gustave Caillebotte, and Edgar Degas, Kessler purposefully chooses not to focus on the food’s delicious and mouthwatering qualities—a striking choice, given France’s reputation for culinary excellence. Rather, Kessler analyzes unsettling pictures of fish postmortem, stabbed butter, and discarded meats that dismantle popular understandings of food pictures… Full Review
May 21, 2021
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Yuhang Li
Premodern East Asia: New Horizons. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 312 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9780231190121)
The role of a bodhisattva in Buddhism has often been compared to that of a saint in Catholicism: an intimate and approachable divine figure who would be willing to put their own enlightenment on pause in order to ensure the salvation of all sentient beings. Among all, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin in Chinese), known as the Goddess of Compassion in English, has an outsize role in East Asian Buddhism. While she is ubiquitous in Chinese art, the Goddess of Compassion is woefully underrepresented in scholarly works, which focus mainly on imperially sponsored icons and primarily from the perspective of elite… Full Review
May 20, 2021
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Michèle Hannoosh
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2019. 248 pp.; 31 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271083575)
Readers may know Michèle Hannoosh best from her work on the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. Alerted to error-riddled versions of his famous Journal (while researching her landmark Painting and the “Journal” of Delacroix, Princeton University Press, 1995), Hannoosh returned to its sources. In her two-volume critical edition of the Journal (José Corti, 2009) and associated publications, Hannoosh brought to light a vast array of new material and ordered a labyrinth of cross-references. In Jules Michelet, Hannoosh focuses on an inaugural specialist in what Michel Foucault called “history itself” (L’Archéologie du savoir, Gallimard, 1969, 13). Two… Full Review
May 18, 2021
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