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

Henry Taylor, Zadie Smith, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Charles Gaines, and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
New York and Los Angeles: Rizzoli Electa and Blum & Poe, 2018. 320 pp.; 198 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780847863105)
Henry Taylor: The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Momma Was Stolen, the first monograph on Henry Taylor, offers a near-encyclopedic visual record of his work. It is filled with almost two hundred large, glossy, full-color plates that feature carefully photographed gallery installations among beautiful reproductions of the paintings for which Taylor is best known. Paging through this record, readers will find that Taylor’s decades of practice have yielded a distinct form of modernism. The paintings’ thick lines, rich colors, and flattened planes come, in the artist’s own words, from a kind of “repurposed” Fauvism (132). His subjects… Full Review
June 3, 2019
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Jennifer L. Shaw
London: Reaktion Books, 2017. 256 pp.; 100 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth £30.00 (9781780237282)
“I’m obsessed with the exception. I see it as bigger than nature. It’s all I see. The rule interests me only for its leftovers with which I make my swill. In this way, I deliberately downgrade myself. Too bad for me” (102). This quote from Claude Cahun, drawn from Cahun and Marcel Moore’s 1930 publication, Aveux non avenus (Disavowals), appears about three-quarters of the way through Jennifer L. Shaw’s Exist Otherwise: The Life and Works of Claude Cahun. However, its resonance is deeply felt throughout this rich chronological biography of the French Surrealist artist, intellectual, and activist… Full Review
May 31, 2019
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Valerie Steele
Exh. cat. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2018. 208 pp.; 120 color ills. Hardcover $50.00 (9780500022269)
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, September 7, 2018–January 5, 2019
Coined “the most divisive of colors,” pink has been worn very fashionably across the world since at least the eighteenth century. It is a color more fascinating and controversial than most when used for clothing, according to a recent exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Organized by chief curator Dr. Valerie Steele, the exhibition addressed a series of themes that responded to the cultural, historical, and symbolic presence of the color in many aspects of dress. The variety of garments on display and their tonal range were striking and enhanced… Full Review
May 30, 2019
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Michael Marrinan
Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2017. 400 pp.; 136 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Hardcover $69.95 (9781606065075)
Gustave Caillebotte has long presented historians of nineteenth-century art with contradictions: here was a champion of and participant in the Impressionist movement who grew up with privilege and became, by dint of his father’s business acumen, a millionaire. Accounts of his artistic production (working from a scant archive) must always contend with how Caillebotte could produce paintings that look more naturalist than Impressionist and would seem to presage social critiques more common to later generations of artists, but that were executed from a position firmly ensconced in upper-class comfort. The desire to resolve these questions of the artist’s identity and… Full Review
May 29, 2019
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Cynthia Burlingham and Allegra Pesenti, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles and New York: Hammer Museum, UCLA in association with DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2018. 208 pp.; 120 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783791357645)
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, September 27–December 30, 2018
Few nineteenth-century figures are as towering as the French poet, novelist, playwright, critic, and politician Victor Hugo (1802–1885). Though he is remembered mostly for his literary achievements, particularly The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862), he excelled at drawing. From September 27 to December 30, 2018, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles exhibited over seventy of his haunting works on paper (he made more than four thousand of them), as well as a select number of photographs and prints. Stones to Stains: The Drawings of Victor Hugo, beautifully curated by Cynthia Burlingham and Allegra Pesenti, illustrated the… Full Review
May 28, 2019
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Denise Murrell
Exh. cat. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 224 pp.; 177 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300229066)
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, October 24, 2018–February 10, 2019; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, March 25–July 14, 2019
Scholars are continually engaged in reassessing evidence, and if they are diligent and perceptive enough they discover new ways of seeing our world. Such is the achievement of Denise Murrell’s 2013 dissertation, “Seeing Laure: Race and Modernity from Manet’s Olympia to Matisse, Bearden and Beyond,” written for the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University under the supervision of Professor Anne Higonnet. Three of Murrell’s other committee members—Alexander Alberro, Rosalyn Deutsche, and Kellie Jones—were drawn from the same department (with Jones also having a joint appointment in the Institute for Research in African American Studies). The final member… Full Review
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Gary Garrels, Jon-Ove Steihaug, and Sheena Wagstaff, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017. 256 pp.; 120 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9781588396235)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 24–October 9, 2017; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018; The Munch Museum, Oslo, May 12–September 9, 2018
“My art has been an act of confession.” So opens the preface to Gary Garrels, Jon-Ove Steihaug, and Sheena Wagstaff’s exhibition catalogue for Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, which took place in San Francisco, New York, and Oslo from June 2017 to September 2018. Edvard Munch (1863–1944) made this comment toward the end of his life, which is significant since the paintings he produced in his later years formed the focus of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue, the latter of which is the subject of this review. It may come as no surprise that Munch’s… Full Review
May 23, 2019
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Shelley Drake Hawks
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 96 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780295741956)
Shelley Drake Hawks’s The Art of Resistance: Painting by Candlelight in Mao’s China is a valuable contribution to Chinese art history and China studies that illuminates the plight of artists during the Cultural Revolution (1966­­–76). Hawks argues that in spite of overwhelming oppression, Chinese artists endured the Cultural Revolution by visualizing their feelings of disillusionment and dissent through art. The expression “painting by candlelight” (ix) refers to the unsanctioned, clandestine, and sometimes dangerous means artists took to create art—painting in secret, encoding works with subversive meaning, or writing Maoist poetry as a formalist rather than political pursuit. Lavishly illustrated and… Full Review
May 22, 2019
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Kathryn Brown
London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. 392 pp.; 8 color ills.; 82 b/w ills. Cloth £110.00 (9781501326837)
From the end of World War I to his death in 1954, Henri Matisse engaged in a number of notable experiments with the livre d’artiste. Kathryn Brown’s expansive study aims to show how Matisse’s artistic production and his thinking on creativity developed through an ongoing dialogue with literary texts, bringing to the fore the important role played by book production within the artist’s overall output. Through multiple fascinating case studies, Brown explores a range of intersecting questions about text-image interactions, about Matisse’s use of the book as an artistic-critical laboratory, and about the cultural importance of the illustrated book… Full Review
May 20, 2019
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William Schaefer
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 8 color ills.; 38 b/w ills. Paperback $27.95 (9780822369196)
A picture of flickering bamboo leaves in a slick Shanghai magazine is carefully inscribed in Chinese characters as a “painting album” (huaben) and is impressed with an artist’s seal—not of a brush-and-ink painter, but of the photographer of the plant. A short story features a narrator who spots an earthen mound from a train window and imagines an Egyptian-style mummy of a royal concubine entombed within emerging to haunt the streets of Shanghai. A painting entitled Ruci Shanghai (Such is Shanghai) shows the city to be a montage of transparent, ghostly visages and body parts: eyebrows, lips, and… Full Review
May 17, 2019
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Judit Bodor, Adam Czirak, Astrid Hackel, Beata Hock, Andrej Mircev, and Angelika Richter, eds.
Berlin: neue Gesellschaft für bildene Kunst, 2018. 206 pp. Paperback €24.00 (9783938515730)
neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, February 3–March 25, 2018
In the winter of 2018, a project group of six curators (Judit Bodor, Adam Czirak, Astrid Hackel, Beata Hock, Andrej Mircev, and Angelika Richter) presented a fresh account of East-Central European performance art in their exhibition Left Performance Histories, at the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (NGbK) in Berlin. The exhibition provided a fascinating and nuanced look at performance-art practices in the region, which both expanded our understanding of that history and brought lesser-studied material to light. The entrance to the show set the scene for the entire exhibition, presenting a “labyrinth” of identity—a literal maze composed of photographs… Full Review
May 16, 2019
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Michael Rooks
Exh. cat. Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2018. 265 pp.; 104 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781932543520)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, November 17, 2017–March 18, 2018
An artist who studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and moved to New York in 1970 to assist Robert Rauschenberg, Al Taylor was consumed with perception and the logic of things. What Are You Looking At?, the title of a survey of his work at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia (2017–18), was also Taylor’s own sly suggestion for the epitaph on his tombstone. At once an innocent question and a phrase uttered to someone rudely staring, “What are you looking at?” is often met with the response, “Nothing much.” Whether made up in his imagination or… Full Review
May 15, 2019
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Randi Korn
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 254 pp.; 49 ills. Cloth $79.00 (9781538106358)
“The most important thing is to have an impact on people,” said Kaywin Feldman to the Washington Post’s Peggy McGlone for an article in January 2019 about her historic appointment as the first female director of the august National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. In an era of political upheaval, climate change, demographic shifts, technological takeover, and economic uncertainty, forward-thinking museum leaders like Feldman are reconsidering what counts as success. Numbers of visitors, members, acquisitions, square feet, exhibitions, programs, publications, and social media followers have limited significance unless a museum is working intentionally to make a meaningful impact… Full Review
May 13, 2019
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Denver Art Museum, November 19, 2018–March 17, 2019; Dallas Museum of Art, May 19–September 1, 2019
Advertised as the first retrospective of the House of Dior in the United States, Dior: From Paris to the World transported visitors from the interior of the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building through the doors of a storied atelier to enter the exhibition gallery. Curated by Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion Florence Müller and designed by Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York, the exhibition was presented in a series of irregularly shaped rooms. An individual gallery was devoted to each of the seven head designers of the House (Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré… Full Review
May 10, 2019
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Colin Gunckel
Exh. cat. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018. 240 pp.; 12 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780895511652)
Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, September 16, 2017–February 10, 2019
In 1967, the first pages of the publication La Raza were printed in the basement of the Church of the Epiphany, in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, under the encouragement of Father John Luce, an Episcopalian priest who supported the Chicano Civil Rights Movement (also known as El Movimiento). Over the next ten years and the course of four dozen issues, the newspaper chronicled El Movimiento, expanding into a magazine in the process. By 1977, conflict, political repression, and exhaustion had caused the movement to wane, and La Raza ceased publication. Throughout that time, an archive of nearly twenty-five thousand… Full Review
May 8, 2019
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