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

Paul Stephenson
Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 92 b/w ills. Hardcover $82.00 (9780190209063)
The idea of writing a “cultural biography” of the Serpent Column is brilliant. Over the 2500 years of its history, this monument stood in the center of two of the most significant environments of the ancient world: the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi and the Circus of Constantinople. It witnessed their transformations, and it underwent important alterations itself, both in its physical appearance and in the meanings associated to it. After a first chapter dealing with the history of its discovery and tentative reconstructions, seven more chapters narrate the life of the column, dealing with its different locations (§ 1… Full Review
March 11, 2019
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Craig Clunas
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 320 pp.; 200 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9780691171937)
Craig Clunas opens the introduction to Chinese Painting and Its Audiences with a monumental understatement: it is a book that some might feel has “a narrow focus, but it has somewhat wider aims” (1). The published form of the 2012 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences is neatly structured into six chapters. It starts with an introductory “Beginning and Ending” that confronts the reader with the prospect that Chinese painting, as an ontological entity, is a fabrication, a subjective construction determined by an outsider’s perspective, and follows with chapters centered on five internal… Full Review
March 8, 2019
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Mey-Yen Moriuchi
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. 180 pp.; 31 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271079073)
Of the principal areas of study constituting Latin American art history, i.e., ancient, colonial, modern, and contemporary, the nineteenth century remains under examined. Situated precariously between the Spanish viceregal period and modern nationhood, this turbulent yet pivotal stage in Mexico’s history has lagged in terms of scholarly attention, particularly in art history. Art historians in Mexico, such as Jean Charlot, Justino Fernández, Fausto Ramírez Rojas, Esther Acevedo, and Angélica Velázquez Guadarrama have done much of the heavy lifting in terms of writing about art in nineteenth-century Mexico. Meanwhile, in the United States, Stacie G. Widdifield has led the way, with… Full Review
March 7, 2019
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Nancy E. Green and Christopher Reed, eds.
Exh. cat. Ithaca, NY: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2016. 296 pp.; 246 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9781934260258)
Herbert E. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, August 27–December 18, 2016; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, February 12–May 21, 2017
In recent decades, specialists of both American and Japanese arts have turned their attention to the history of these two countries’ artistic interactions from the nineteenth century through the present. Scholars of Japan have also explored twentieth-century avant-garde Japanese arts. Concurrently, art history has increasingly expanded to embrace a field more aptly termed “visual culture studies,” which incorporates the analysis of mass-market commercial products. These efforts have resulted in fresh insights into the ways in which American and Japanese cultures have intersected through their visual materials. The exhibition catalogue reviewed here reflects these new scholarly directions. It enlarges upon the… Full Review
March 6, 2019
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Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, March 13–August 13, 2017
In 1839, shortly after publishing “Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing, or the Process by Which Natural Objects May Be Made to Delineate Themselves without the Aid of the Artist’s Pencil,” William Henry Fox Talbot sent a letter along with thirty-six examples of photogenic drawings to Antonio Bertoloni, a botanist in Bologna, Italy. Talbot undoubtedly desired to alert colleagues to his invention in the wake of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s announcement of his own photographic process on January 7th that year, and Bertoloni dutifully assembled the materials into an album for posterity, which the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New… Full Review
March 4, 2019
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Katie Hornstein
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 208 pp.; 100 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300228267)
Representations of war and soldierly actions have assuredly fascinated entire generations, especially during fragile political contexts such as revolutions and governmental changes. Rarely, however, has military imagery been dealt with from a critical art historical perspective. Military imagery has typically been understood in terms of its official ideological role and its capacity as a tool for the state to guide public opinion. Katie Hornstein has managed to invert this tendency. Her book on war imagery in the first half of the nineteenth century in France provides not only a brilliant discussion of the diversity of visual resources and references that… Full Review
March 1, 2019
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Earnestine Lovelle Jenkins
London: Routledge, 2016. 320 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Cloth $140.25 (9781409468196)
In the past three decades, there has been a welcome increase in literature on nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American photography. While much pathbreaking scholarship has been produced, art historians have acknowledged only a fraction of black photographers active in the pre–Civil Rights era. Taking the city of Memphis as her case study, Earnestine Lovelle Jenkins contributes a much-needed and richly researched monograph to the history of African American photography. Organized into ten chapters split between three parts, Jenkins’s book covers photographs of black Memphians from the antebellum period through the early twentieth century. Part 1, “Memphis: From Slavery to Freedom,”… Full Review
February 22, 2019
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Stephen Houston
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. 256 pp.; 56 color ills.; 49 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300228960)
With this book, one of the more prolific Maya archaeologists makes a significant art historical contribution, providing evidence of the impact of adolescent males in ancient Maya society as preeminent subjects and patrons of art and texts, particularly during the Classic period (300–850 CE). Indeed, according to the author, young males “energized and reinforced courtly societies” of the ancient Maya realm (6). Over six chapters, plus extensive and detailed endnotes, the work fully combines epigraphy, art history, and archaeological data into a comprehensive synthesis that provides a new perspective on gender among the ancient Maya, a topic that until now… Full Review
February 20, 2019
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Joanna Zylinska
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017. 272 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780262037020)
24 HRS in Photos (2011), an art installation by Dutch photographer, curator, and designer Erik Kessels, gives us a means of looking at the contemporary state of photography. To create it, Kessels printed out every picture uploaded to Flickr, the image-sharing website, on a single day. The resulting mountains of photos reached to the ceiling in one location, poured through doorways in another, and avalanched over furniture in a third. The flood of images makes material the constant production and circulation of digital photographs in our current moment, and it is easy to respond with a sense of fatigue, a… Full Review
February 11, 2019
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Olga Bush
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018. 344 pp.; 94 color ills.; 21 b/w ills. €95.00 (9781474416504)
The Alhambra has long been an accessible entryway into a powerful kind of Orientalist romanticism, capturing the minds and words of writers, rulers, artists, and art historians alike. Constructed at the end of the ninth century, expanded as a palace in the twelfth and thirteenth under the Nasrid dynasty (1230–1492), before falling into disrepair from the Reconquista until the nineteenth century, the Alhambra inspired Europeans with its arabesque ornamental scheme and poetic Arabic epigraphy. But as Olga Bush points out in Reframing the Alhambra, the records and descriptions from such sources often tell us more about the authors themselves… Full Review
February 11, 2019
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Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski, eds.
London: Routledge, 2016. 306 pp.; 67 color ills. Cloth $160.00 (9781472460141)
There are times when divergent academic and ideological interests come together unexpectedly; these events can yield new scholarly insights even as they lay bare disciplinary antagonisms. A 2009 symposium at the Clark Art Institute was just such an occasion. Its interrogatory title Is Paris Still the Capital of the 19th Century? signaled the conveners’ interest in the legacies of Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and T. J. Clark for the writing of nineteenth-century art history. Less clear was whether the title was meant ironically or in earnest. Were the conveners purposely begging the question? The publication of a related collection of… Full Review
February 8, 2019
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Bahattin Öztuncay and Özge Ertem, eds.
Exh. cat. Istanbul: ANAMED, 2018. 180 pp. Cloth $62.95 (9786052116487)
Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), Istanbul, Turkey, May 10–September 30, 2018
The catalogue Ottoman Arcadia: The Hamidian Expedition to the Land of Tribal Roots (1886) accompanied its namesake exhibition in Istanbul curated by Bahattin Öztuncay, Ahmet Ersoy, and Deniz Türker. The exhibition displayed the Bismarck Gift Albums, three photographic albums prepared by the court of Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876–1909) as an official gift for Otto von Bismarck (d. 1890), Germany’s long-term legendary chancellor. These albums (acquired by the Omer M. Koç Collection in May 2017) document the Söğüt Photographic Expedition, which was a trip ordered in 1886 by Abdülhamid II’s imperial decree to the then newly established Ertuğrul Sancak… Full Review
February 6, 2019
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Nicola Suthor
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018. 240 pp.; 25 color ills.; 57 b/w ills.; 82 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780691172446)
The Dutch painter, printmaker, and draftsman Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) died three hundred fifty years ago (the anniversary this year is being marked by exhibitions and events worldwide) and for much of that time, his art has been the object of avid consumption, artistic emulation, and scholarly scrutiny. Responses have ranged from adulation to disgust, but apathy has seldom been one of them. Thus, it is a daunting challenge to say something new about this endlessly fascinating and infuriatingly cagey old master, whose own literary record can be summed up in a handful of financially motivated letters and pithy (possibly… Full Review
February 4, 2019
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Catherine Chevillot and Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, eds.
Exh. cat. Paris: Les éditions Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, 2017. 400 pp.; 420 ills. Hardcover €49.00 (9782711863730)
Musée Rodin/RMN Rodin, Grand Palais, Paris, France, March 22–July 31, 2017
To mark the centenary of the death of Auguste Rodin, the Musée Rodin organized a range of events and acted as communication hub for celebratory happenings around the world, which included this weighty (in every sense) and lavishly illustrated book. Its appendices alone comprise an invaluable, clear record of the exhibition, with a detailed catalogue of works exhibited (332 entries), an extensive bibliography, and a list of works alphabetically by sculptor. But the bulk of the book celebrates Rodin in a broad sense, drawing out aspects of his work that have ongoing relevance for modern and contemporary sculptural practice. It… Full Review
February 1, 2019
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Sharon Farmer
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. 368 pp.; 28 color ills. Cloth $69.95 (9780812248487 )
The release of Sharon Farmer’s most recent book, The Silk Industries of Medieval Paris: Artisanal Migration, Technological Innovation, and Gendered Experience, was eagerly awaited. With this study, the author tackles an exciting and ambitious project: to reconsider the history of silk industries in medieval Paris and question its origins. Exploiting with ease all sources available, Farmer demonstrates that from the last decade of the thirteenth century to the late fourteenth, Paris had, in effect, a silk cloth industry whose production went far beyond the manufacture of haberdashery to which it has often been limited. In the introduction, Farmer addresses and… Full Review
January 30, 2019
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