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

Penelope J. E. Davies
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 265 pp.; 117 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521632366)
Death and the Emperor is an important new book that treats several familiar landmarks of the Eternal City in unfamiliar, stimulating, and insightful ways. The focus of the author's inquiry is the series of tombs and other memorials erected to honor deceased Roman emperors from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Because some of these monuments were built to house the remains of entire dynasties, this elite class of buildings has very few members—in fact, only seven (for eighteen emperors). The first—and the one that established many of the leitmotifs of the group—was the Mausoleum of Augustus, the great tumulus-tomb that Augustus… Full Review
January 29, 2001
Debra Pincus
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 276 pp.; 126 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521593549)
Amidst the massive tombs of later doges, often reaching the entire height of a church from floor to vaulting, the rather more modest memorials to 13th- and 14th-century leaders of Venice may escape the notice of the general public, and indeed have largely escaped the attention of scholars. Debra Pincus amply demonstrates that they are, on the contrary, of considerable interest and importance. Most obviously, the early ducal tombs set the stage for the "grand, wall-filling tombs of the second half of the fifteenth century" (1), which expanded upon but did not greatly deviate from the themes introduced early on… Full Review
January 29, 2001
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Gail E. Husch
Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000. 384 pp.; 12 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (1584650060)
In 1972, David Huntington published an engaging and thought-provoking work, his Art and the Excited Spirit: America in the Romantic Period, a study of antebellum culture that has as its thesis the idea that "the American of the Romantic age was wakeful and on the qui vive." "His world was fraught with religion," Huntington told us, "his was an excited spirit." Having had the benefit of the late professor's teaching on this subject, I believe that Huntington felt a kind of electricity emanating from this country's artistic productions of the 1830s and '40s. He saw in a vast… Full Review
January 25, 2001
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Barbara Dayer Gallati
Harry N. Abrams in association with Brooklyn Museum, 2000. 192 pp.; 54 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $37.50 (0810945584)
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, May 26-August 13, 2000; The Art Institute of Chicago, September 7-November 26, 2000; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 13, 2000-March 11, 2001.
William Merritt Chase has long been considered a major American artist, if not a New York artist. Brooklyn Museum curator Barbara Dayer Gallati shows how Chase's reputation first evolved, taking no aspect of his art or identity for granted. The catalogue for William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886-1890 (which initiated at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in May 2000, and ends at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in March 2001) aims to reveal Chase's importance as a modern artist and as a "New York artist" by focusing on a group of urban landscapes with figures produced over… Full Review
January 25, 2001
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Deborah Martin Kao, Laura Katzman, and Jenna Webster
Yale University Press in association with Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Museums, 2000. 340 pp.; 24 color ills.; 246 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300083157)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, February 5-April 30, 2000; The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 10-August 27, 2000; The Grey Art Gallery, New York University, October 14, 2000-January 27, 2001; David and Alfred Smart Museum, University of Chicago, April 19-June 17, 2001.
"To me, images are images...They're images, and they can be moving or not. That's all there is to it." So stated the painter and photographer Ben Shahn in a 1965 interview, cited in an appendix of this excellent catalogue that was published to accompany an exhibition of Shahn's early photographs of street life in New York. Shahn's statement summarizes succinctly the main theme that the contributors to this volume wish to address: the relationship between Shahn's paintings and his photographic work, and more specifically, the place of his New York photographs in the development of his humanistic iconography. … Full Review
January 25, 2001
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Carmen Bambach
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 548 pp.; 14 color ills.; 209 b/w ills. Cloth $125.00 (0521402182)
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that in order to get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. Similarly, in order to write a good doctoral thesis, you have to choose a good subject. This book, like many another first book in the history of art, is the author's doctoral thesis (Yale, 1988) writ large, and she certainly picked a fantastic topic. The result is one of the most useful books ever written on Italian Renaissance drawings, albeit—it has to be admitted—scarcely one of the most approachable. In saying this, I do not… Full Review
January 25, 2001
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Robert Ousterhout
Princeton University Press, 1999. 318 pp.; 209 b/w ills. Cloth $67.50 (0691005354)
Byzantium lies far removed from most twenty-first-century sensibilities, an exotic historical relic of the premodern world. No doubt its most enduring architectural legacy is its churches, scores of which still stand in crowded neighborhoods or rural isolation across the east Mediterranean. These are typically small, frequently domed, and elaborately decorated structures that shape a truly distinctive liturgical environment. The survival of this basic idea in many Orthodox churches today suggests the persistence of a fundamental cultural truth, an almost mystical embodiment of the cosmos as conceived by the medieval mind. Viewed less sympathetically, these compact buildings represent the meager fruit… Full Review
January 18, 2001
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Wu Hung
University of Chicago Press, 1999. (0935573275)
David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, February 18-April 18, 1999; University of Oregon Museum of Art, Eugene, OR, July 17-September 12, 1999; Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, October 13-December 9, 1999
Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century is the catalogue for a small but well-focused exhibition of contemporary Chinese art held at the Smart Museum, University of Chicago, from February 18 to April 18, 1999 and subsequently exhibited at the University of Oregon Museum of Art and the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College. Author and exhibition curator, Wu Hung, Harrie Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at University of Chicago, begins his book with a reflection upon the general state of the field. His introduction, "Pushing the Limits, Chinese Experimental Art, 1949 to 1999,"… Full Review
January 10, 2001
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Emily Braun
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 346 pp.; 16 color ills.; many b/w ills.; 145 ills. Cloth $60.00 (0521480159)
Emily Braun's book is a milestone in the study of fascist art and politics, not only because Sironi played a seminal role in the development of fascist aesthetics but also due to the theoretical sophistication she brings to her analysis of fascism's cultural politics. Braun frames Sironi's production in terms of Roger Griffin's palingenetic concept of fascism, a generic term deriving from "palin," meaning "again" or "anew," and genesis, suggesting creation or birth. At the core of fascist politics was a palingenetic call for a period of renewal or regeneration after a phase of crisis or decline. Fascists addressed both… Full Review
January 8, 2001
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Georgia Frank
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 232 pp. Cloth $40.00 (0520222059)
This book is by turn fascinating, informative, challenging and frustrating. Its focus lies with fourth to fifth century Christian texts describing the lives and habits of ascetic monks, above all in Egypt. Frank's interest lies in journeys to people rather than journeys to places. Her concern is not with the objects of pilgrimage, saints and holy places, but with the pilgrim's own experiences and the sharing of that experience with the reader of the text. Frank constructs these texts in a variety of ways: she analyses them as travelogues, as pilgrimage texts, and as stories written to give lay audiences… Full Review
December 15, 2000
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Mary Anne Caws and Sara Bird Wright
Oxford University Press, 1999. 430 pp. Cloth $35.00 (0195117522)
Tate Gallery, London, November 4, 1999-January 30, 2000; The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, March 4-April 30, 2000; The Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, May 20-September 3, 2000.
Richard Shone
Exh. cat. Princeton University Press, 1999. 293 pp.; 200 color ills.; some b/w ills. $60.00 (0691049939)
It is almost a platitude for reviewers to greet books and exhibitions about the Bloomsbury artists with the dismayed question, What new about this group can possibly be seen or said? This response is unjust. In fact, the exhibition The Art of Bloomsbury, originated in London's Tate Gallery and circulated in somewhat reduced form through two American venues—the Huntington Library and the Yale Center for British Art—is the first comprehensive survey of the art of Bloomsbury's central figures: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant. The exhibition benefited from the knowledgeable curatorship of Richard Shone, author of… Full Review
November 21, 2000
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Mary Anne Caws and Sara Bird Wright
Oxford University Press, 1999. 430 pp. Cloth $35.00 (0195117522)
Tate Gallery, London, November 4, 1999-January 30, 2000; The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, March 4-April 30, 2000; The Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, May 20-September 3, 2000.
Richard Shone
Exh. cat. Princeton University Press, 1999. 293 pp.; 200 color ills.; some b/w ills. $60.00 (0691049939)
It is almost a platitude for reviewers to greet books and exhibitions about the Bloomsbury artists with the dismayed question, What new about this group can possibly be seen or said? This response is unjust. In fact, the exhibition The Art of Bloomsbury, originated in London's Tate Gallery and circulated in somewhat reduced form through two American venues—the Huntington Library and the Yale Center for British Art—is the first comprehensive survey of the art of Bloomsbury's central figures: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant. The exhibition benefited from the knowledgeable curatorship of Richard Shone, author of… Full Review
November 21, 2000
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Jan Cavanaugh
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Cloth (0520211902)
"I have to say that an encounter between progress and reaction, between being uncompromising and opportunistic, fascinates me equally strongly today." The artist and theater director Tadeusz Kantor wrote these words in 1964 touching upon one of the most important issues faced by artists in our modern times that transcends national divisions, the choice between conformism and rebellion. From the Polish perspective, such a choice has a strong grounding in Poland's turbulent history as it is a country that constantly reshaped its borders, and appeared and disappeared on the map of Europe. As a consequence history has put Polish identity… Full Review
November 16, 2000
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Francis Frascina
Manchester University Press, 2000. 248 pp.; none color ills.; few b/w ills.; 0 ills. Paper $69.95 (0719044685)
The intellectual as social critic has a long and respected tradition. The works of Dante and Milton, Lessing and Rousseau, Stowe and Hugo vibrate with the intense political passions that motivated each writer to pick up their pens. At the end of the nineteenth century, Zola's defense of Dreyfuss set a standard for engagement. The intellectual used his or her mastery of communication to challenge the lies of a corrupt government. American intervention into the Vietnamese civil war sparked poets, theater workers, and filmmakers to produce some of their finest work as they tried to live up to the responsibilities… Full Review
November 10, 2000
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Chloe Chard
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999. 278 pp. Cloth $69.95 (0719048044)
Chloe Chard's Pleasure and Guilt on the Grand Tour has obvious topical import for art and architectural historians of the early modern to modern periods. Instigated in part by a postcolonial turn in criticism, the varied artifacts of European expansion have captured the attention of scholars across disciplines. But before this rather recent interdisciplinary interest, art and architectural historians have been, as Chard mentions, some of the few scholars to pay special notice to the accounts of seventeenth- to nineteenth-century travelers who made the tour of Italy to collect and, in many cases, produce works out of encounters with the… Full Review
November 9, 2000
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