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

Irina Aristarkhova
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 248 pp.; 11 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781517908973)
Arrested Welcome is a thematically organized set of case studies on the strategies of hospitality in contemporary artists’ projects. Aristarkhova defines “hospitality” as “the practice of welcoming others” (xv), with collective potential extending from individual encounters. According to Aristarkhova, acts and forms of hospitality are used by artists “to bring back its original promise of a democratic, indiscriminate, unconditional welcome” (65). At the same time, Aristarkhova is clear about the problems with extrapolating social change from individual artistic practices. She notes that “individual welcoming acts do not solve big structural problems” (xviii), remarks that “it is problematic to act out… Full Review
January 12, 2022
M. Elizabeth Boone
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 272 pp.; 20 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271083315)
In the past decade more scholars have abandoned an understanding of history based on contemporary political borders to embrace an understanding centering on the historical entanglement of empires. Such entanglement has resulted in our present power relations among nations in the Americas. Art historian M. Elizabeth Boone’s “The Spanish Element in Our Nationality” is an example of this shift in historical approaches, which complements work by scholars such as April Lee Hatfield, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Katherine Manthorne, and Maggie M. Cao. More significantly, with its emphasis on the history of world’s fairs, this book creates a narrative where technology, art, science… Full Review
January 6, 2022
Robin Schuldenfrei
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018. 336 pp.; 74 color ills.; 126 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691175126)
In a reappraisal of German modernism, Robin Schuldenfrei’s Luxury and Modernism: Architecture and the Object in Germany 1900–1933 highlights issues of taste, class, and luxury in modern German design and interiors, ultimately underscoring a necessary distinction between objects actually suited to mass production and handcrafted objects made with a modern, mass-produced aesthetic. Schuldenfrei examines the tensions of the Bauhaus, which was founded on progressive principles but ultimately fell short of producing financially accessible products, instead reaching an elite class of consumers. The book’s introduction considers the retouching of a seemingly prosaic photograph taken by Lucia Moholy for the 1930 book… Full Review
January 4, 2022
Diana Seave Greenwald
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021. 256 pp.; 55 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Cloth $42.00 (9780691192451)
Diana Greenwald is trained as both an art historian and an economist, and in Painting by Numbers: Data-Driven Histories of Nineteenth-Century Art, she aims to bring the methods and explanatory force of both disciplines together in the analysis of nineteenth-century art. As suggested by the subtitle, the book is driven primarily by a methodological call to the field. In this, it is analogous to Matthew Jockers’s Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (University of Illinois Press, 2017), which challenged literary scholars to use computational methods to enlarge the scale of literary history from the micro to the macro, moving… Full Review
December 21, 2021
Chiyo Ishikawa
Exh. cat. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2021. 80 pp. Cloth $19.95 (9780932216779)
Seattle Art Museum, July 1–October 17, 2021
For my first museum visit in the pandemic, I was looking forward to spending an afternoon with this focused exhibition. The work was sparsely hung with the requisite six-foot distance of our current era in mind, giving the viewer a considerable amount of space, although making the paintings themselves appear small on the large and imposing walls. This show was organized around a single painting, the only one by Claude Monet (1840–1926) in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM): namely, Fishing Boats at Étretat (1885). The exhibition was curated by Chiyo Ishikawa, the museum’s former deputy… Full Review
December 14, 2021
Matthias Mühling and Stephanie Weber, eds.
Exh. cat. Munich: Hirmer, 2021. 336 pp.; 245 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9783777433684)
Lenbachhaus, Munich, September 17, 2019–January 19, 2020; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, October 13–November 15, 2020; Denver Art Museum, December 13, 2020–April 11, 2021; Philadelphia Museum of Art, May 2–July 25, 2021
The year preceding Spring 2021, spent away from museums and most other social spaces, forced a collective recognition of our basic, fallible corporeality, of our relational occupation of space, and of our globally intertwined fates. Our spatial-social sensitivities had perhaps never before been so finely tuned, primed to appreciate the oeuvre of Senga Nengudi, who has engaged with such concerns since the beginning of her career in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), the recent exhibition of the artist’s work and its accompanying book, both titled Senga Nengudi: Topologies, offer an… Full Review
December 9, 2021
Alison J. Clarke
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 360 pp.; 78 color ills. Cloth $40.00 (9780262044943)
In a moment of climate catastrophe and political crises, Alison Clarke’s Victor Papanek: Designer for the Real World joins other recent publications in demonstrating renewed interest in the design educator’s manifesto for socially and ecologically responsible design. With the benefit of a half-century’s distance from the 1971 English-language publication of Papanek’s influential Design for the Real World, Clarke covers an impressive amount of territory to show how the landmark book was not the straightforward product of a single designer’s motivated conscience, but rather was built atop a complex mesh of Cold War cultural politics, institutional structures, and the rocky… Full Review
December 7, 2021
Diana Rodríguez Pérez, ed.
London: Routledge, 2020. 306 pp. Paper $48.95 (9780367595081)
A critical study of the contexts of artifacts requires a solid awareness of the methodologies available to investigate a wider network of relationships, as the Italian art historian Giovanni Previtali showed (G. Previtali, “Alcune opere ‘fuori contesto’: Il caso di Marco Romano,” Bollettino d’arte, 6th ser., 22, 1983, 43–68). This need is even more relevant today as researchers can now use a wider range of techniques to work on contexts, such as the many possible forms of archaeometric analysis, which require a firm methodological command by scholars in the humanities.  Important reflections on working on contexts with reference to… Full Review
December 2, 2021
Bryan C. Keene and Karl Whittington, eds.
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2020. 320 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth €115.00 (9782503586182)
This volume of papers from the Andrew Ladis Trecento Conference held in 2018 attempts to relocate the study of Italian art, 1300–1400, a field historically dominated by attribution and connoisseurship, into new art historical methodologies and critical methods. The editors identify some of these as the study of gender, reception of art by diverse audiences, and interrelationships between artistic imagery, sermons, and vernacular texts; they also discuss the exploration of abstract concepts like time or knowledge, theoretical approaches to pictorial space, and a shift in scholarly attention to the later trecento. For this reviewer, the most innovative papers address the… Full Review
November 30, 2021
Valerie Cassel Oliver
Exh. cat. Richmond, VA and Durham, NC: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in association with Duke University Press, 2021. 288 pp.; 140 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth (9781934351192)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, May 22–September 6, 2021; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, October 28, 2021–February 6, 2022; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, March 12–July 25, 2022; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, September 2022–February 2023
Throughout the summer of 2021, a white sedan with gold trim, a type affectionately known as a SLAB (acronym for “slow, loud, and banging”), was parked in the main atrium of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. The SLAB, a customized 1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance, designed by the New Orleans rapper Richard “Fiend” Jones and commissioned by the museum, joyfully and flamboyantly announced the long-anticipated opening of The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse. Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, The Dirty South brings together over 100 artists from the… Full Review
November 17, 2021
Kristen Seaman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 206 pp.; 8 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781108490917)
“Why did some notable examples of Hellenistic Art look so different from previous Greek art? And why did some key elements of Hellenistic art and literature appear so similar?” (xi). Kristin Seaman’s work is built and developed around these essential questions of differences across time and similarities between media. By recognizing the central role of rhetorical education in Greek society, the author emphasizes the close association between innovative visual production and textual culture in the Hellenistic courts. Within this context, the practice of progymnasmata held a distinctive position. The composition and delivery of orations appears to have been incorporated into… Full Review
November 10, 2021
Sarah Thomas
London and New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2019. 304 pp.; 168 ills. (9781913107055)
John Simpson’s The Captive Slave (1827, Art Institute of Chicago) graces the cover of Witnessing Slavery: Art and Travel in the Age of Abolition, a compelling book that examines eyewitness accounts of slavery largely produced by British artists during the seventy-year period between 1770 and 1840. Although a poignant and absorbing image, Simpson’s painting is one of the few works in the book that is not an eyewitness account, but instead a formal portrait of an anonymous slave said to have been modeled by Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage. This paradox… Full Review
November 4, 2021
Andrea Nelson, ed.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2020. 288 pp.; 8 color ills.; 269 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781942884743)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, July 2–October 3, 2021; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 31, 2021–January 30, 2022
In May 1914 Wilson’s Photographic Magazine devoted thirteen pages to a celebration of “how women have won fame in photography.” Apparently this triumph was short-lived, because, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, major museums have once again opened their galleries to photographs whose defining criterion for inclusion was the gender of their creators. Building on the ambitious Qui a peur des femmes photographes? 1839–1945 (Musée d’Orsay, 2015) and the Museum of Modern Art’s Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography (2010–11), the National Gallery’s The New Woman behind the Camera (first shown at the Metropolitan Museum… Full Review
November 2, 2021
Hanneke Grootenboer
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 240 pp.; 16 color ills.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780226717951)
Thinking is something we get to enjoy alone, and yet, as Hanneke Grootenboer shows in The Pensive Image: Art as a Form of Thinking, it is also collective. Grootenboer’s own thinking builds on foundations laid by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Gaston Bachelard, and Jacques Rancière, as well as by artists, from painters to filmmakers. More unruly and less policed than the discipline of philosophy proper, it belongs to that praxis we know as “theory.” For thinking along with art, Grootenboer demonstrates, discrete ideas, pensées, or Denkbilder, whose compactness already begins to… Full Review
October 20, 2021
Connie H. Choi, Thelma Golden, and Kellie Jones
Exh. cat. New York: Rizzoli Electa, 2019. 232 pp. Cloth $45.00 (9780847866380)
Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, January 16–April 14, 2019; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC, May 24–August 18, 2019; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI, September 13–December 8, 2019; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, January 17–April 12, 2020; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, January 23–April 10, 2021; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, May 22–August 15, 2021
Coming upon Kevin the Kiteman, Jordan Casteel’s big 2016 painting in the galleries of Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, viewers might have been reminded of how the pandemic has utterly transformed urban experience. The piece opened a section of Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem focused on work by former artists-in-residence, the signature studio program of the famed New York institution. As Frye Art Museum curator Amanda Donnan describes in the catalog, the work was the result of a serendipitous encounter between painter and subject. When observing the busy plaza across the street from her studio at… Full Review
October 13, 2021