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

Michael K. Komanecky
Phoenix: Oxford University Press in association with Phoenix Art Museum, 1998. 346 pp.; 137 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0195123972)
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, Dec. 19, 1998-Feb. 28, 1999.
Paintings on copper have long been valued as refined and elegant works of art. The authors of the exhibition catalogue Copper as Canvas have undertaken to evaluate the specific qualities that this material--copper panel used as a painting support--lends to a wide range of works of art. In this ambitious project they have made an important contribution, not only in the information they have gathered but in the conception of the exhibition itself. Other exhibitions have explored the balance between specific painting materials and the visual qualities they lend works of art; the Art in the Making series organized by… Full Review
May 10, 2000
Jan Ostrowski
Yale University Press, 1998. 380 pp.; 190 color ills.; 54 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300079184)
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD, March 2-May 9, 1999; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, June 5-September 6, 1999; Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL, September 25-November 28, 1999; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, December 18, 1999-February 27, 2000; Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK, March 25-June18, 2000; The Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland, Summer 2000.
Given the relative difficulty of transporting a collection of such extraordinary breadth and national importance, it is not surprising that the last American exhibition of Polish art from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took place close to thirty years ago. While readers may be familiar with its fairly limited catalogue, as well as important later texts such as Jan Bialostocki's The Art of the Renaissance in Eastern Europe and Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann's recent Court, Cloister and City: The Art of Central Europe, 1450-1800, few publications in English have specifically addressed the topic of the Polish baroque. The organizers of… Full Review
April 24, 2000
Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 240 pp. Cloth $85.00 (0521640040)
The evaluation of more or less heroic artists is still standard practice in studies of seventeenth-century French art. Consider, for example, the colloquium on Pierre Mignard at the Louvre in 1995, and the Georges de La Tour exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris from 1997-98. This focus on individual "masters" is, of course, hardly unusual in the discipline of art history. It seems, however, that many specialists of early modern French visual culture have not only remained dedicated to such an approach, but they have also paid regular homage to one artist in particular, namely Nicolas Poussin. … Full Review
April 20, 2000
Mark Jarzombek
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 327 pp.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521582385)
Mark Jarzombek's The Psychologizing of Modernity is in many respects a timely book. Drawing upon an impressive range of readings undertaken in 1994 at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Jarzombek brings together parts of several of his earlier writings for the journal Assemblage, most significantly his 1994 essay, "De-Scribing the Language of Looking: Woelfflin and the History of Aesthetic Experientialism." What is new is that the earlier question of "how would I write a history of the theory of aesthetic experientialism" is now transposed into the (Woelfflinean) ambition to write a "Prolegomenon to Critical Historiography." It is… Full Review
April 20, 2000
Calvin B. Kendall
University of Toronto Press, 1998. 401 pp.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0802042627)
Calvin Kendall has a wonderful topic, the verse inscriptions that decorate a large number of Romanesque church portals. While I sometimes disagree sharply with Kendall's treatment of his material, he gets full marks for paying attention to it in the first place; it is an embarrassment to art history that such an important and literally obvious topic was first studied monographically by a professor of English. And, whatever disagreements one may have with Kendall's method and conclusions, the long appendix to his book, which meticulously transcribes and translates all of the inscriptions known to him, is a crucial corpus of… Full Review
April 18, 2000
William Alexander McClung
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 300 pp.; 150 b/w ills. Cloth (0520218272)
LA is a hard city to get in focus. Many American and non-American immigrants thought of it as an ideal destination. But much of the local literature is devoted to the natural disasters--earthquakes and fires--and to stories of crime. Because it is a new, very rich city without well-established cultural traditions--and because it is the center of the film industry and a place dependent on massive water imports--LA can seem a highly artificial city. Perhaps that is why this landscape inspires such powerful myths. McClung's beautifully produced, well-illustrated book presents a wealth of information about the city in… Full Review
April 15, 2000
Robin Aselson
Getty Trust Publications, 1999. 160 pp.; 50 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0892365560)
As an English professor, I rarely have the pleasure of reviewing visually stunning books, so my assessment of this book as lovely to look at does not rest on the basis of much comparison. The three essays that form the text, the plentiful (and lush) illustrations, and the lengthy chronology of Siddons's life contained in this volume make up a fascinating picture of Siddons's career and its alchemy with eighteenth-century portraiture. Siddons's stage roles are only one factor in what the authors--Asleson, Shearer West, Shelley Bennett, and Mark Leonard--discuss as the production of Siddons's image as star and cultural icon… Full Review
April 11, 2000
Dorothea Olkowski
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 310 pp.; 10 b/w ills. Paper $18.95 (0520216938)
Foucault once stated that the 20th century would one day be called Deleuzian, citing Gilles Deleuze's profound ability to theorize radical change on the ontological level, beyond the restricting epistemological logic of hierarchic, organic thought that has dominated philosophical and semiotic discourse since the Enlightenment. Although Deleuze's groundbreaking work with Felix Guattari--specifically Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus--and such terms as "rhizomatics," "deterritorialization," the "body-without-organs," and the "war machine" have become increasingly common buzzwords in recent critical attempts to rethink the ideology of the image, the French philosopher has been significantly ignored by feminists, particularly in comparison to Freudian and… Full Review
April 11, 2000
Jeff Kowalski
Oxford University Press, 2016. 432 pp. $125.00 (9780195079616)
Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol is one of the latest in a series of recent works on architecture in ancient Middle America. Jeff Kowalski's volume joins The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews (Scribner, 1998), and Stephen Houston's edited volumes Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture (Dumbarton Oaks, 1999), and Royal Courts of the Maya (with Takeshi Inomata, Westview Press, 2000). But unlike these volumes, which focus only on the Maya, Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol addresses architecture as a carrier of cultural meaning in most… Full Review
April 7, 2000
Emma Barker
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 272 pp.; 60 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Paper $27.50 (0300077831)
Mary Anne Staniszewski
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 400 pp.; 204 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262194023)
More than twenty years have passed since scholars Carol Duncan, Brian O'Doherty, and Alan Wallach published their groundbreaking critical analyses of art museums and their display strategies. These incisive essays launched a wave of vehement institutional critiques that effectively pitted critically informed academic concerns against contemporary museum practices. Two of the more recent additions to the fray--Mary Anne Staniszewski's The Power of Display and the Open University's Contemporary Cultures of Display, edited by Emma Barker--indicate that with the passage of time, the field has not only remained vigilant, but also matured considerably. The Museum of Modern Art… Full Review
April 5, 2000
Exhibition Schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, March 16-May 28, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, June 25-September 17, 2000
Cities as art centers have not always had the attention they deserve, especially in art exhibitions, because of the daunting problems of scale as well as the problems of representation of both the architectural environment and the unmovable monuments. There have been some truly notable exceptions, with particular relevance to this ambitious effort on Rome: Philadelphia's own Second Empire Paris exhibition as well as Detroit's 18th-Century Naples (1981). Once more Philadelphia has taken on a formidable "millennium show" challenge, and has done it justice. This exhibition is a revelation as well as a revision. The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome… Full Review
April 1, 2000
Richard Hill
Yale University Press, 1999. 288 pp.; 106 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (0300079486)
The fall issue of Aesthetics, the newsletter of the American Society for Aesthetics, brought an article by Saul Fisher called "Analytic Philosophy of Architecture: A Course." Quickly the introductory discussion proceeded to the question: "Why the Philosophy of Architecture?" That question was narrowed: "Why an Analytic Philosophy of Architecture?" Architects in recent years have of course shown quite an extraordinary interest in philosophy. But the analytic philosopher of architecture apparently cannot count on such interest. And yet, the author insisted, professional architects "should take note of what analytic philosophers are saying." Should they? Professor Fisher's answer: "The price of… Full Review
March 31, 2000
Mojmir Frinta
Prague: Maxdorf. 556 pp. (8085800942)
This volume, the first of two, offers a catalogue raisonné of the diverse motif punch impressions in panel painting and book illumination collected by the auther over a span of thirty-five years. As indicated in the title, the volume covers such evidence in the period from the early fourteenth to the fifteenth century in Italy, and also in countries north of the Alps, especially Bohemia. It further includes some early Byzantine and late medieval material. The photos of the motif punch impressions have been enlarged threefold for better reading. An accompanying metric scale allows for precise measurement. The motif punches… Full Review
March 30, 2000
Diane Fischer, ed.
Exh. cat. Montclair: Montclair Art Museum in association with Rutgers University Press, 1999. 232 pp.; 101 b/w ills. $50.00 (0813526418)
The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, September 19, 1999-Jan.16, 2000; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,Philadelphia, PA, February 12-April 16, 2000; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH, May 18-August 13, 2000; Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 16-December 3, 2000; Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France, February 2-May 15, 2001.
Diane P. Fischer opens the principal essay of the Paris 1900 catalogue with a reference to the self-conscious declaration of the American Department of Fine Arts at the Paris Exposition of 1900 to present the United States as a nation free of "foreign trammels." The examination of this desire to assert a unique American identity, both political and artistic, binds Fischer's text with the other essays of the catalogue, detailing the complex interrelationships of national and artistic identity in 1890s America. Fischer constructs an opposition between the 1900 art display and that of the Universal Exposition of 1889, where American… Full Review
March 29, 2000
Chantal Thomas
Trans Julie Rose MIT Press, 1999. 255 pp.; 6 b/w ills. Cloth $26.00 (0942299396)
Witness the arrest of Marie-Antoinette as image in the stark drawing by Jacques-Louis David that cuts the Queen's last vestige of luxury, a pair of black silk shoes we are told she wore in defiance to the guillotine, down to the barest gashes. That which Terry Castle diagnoses as "Marie-Antoinette obsession" [The Apparitional Lesbian (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993)] infuses these ancien régime material objects, associated with the doomed Queen, with a particular charge. A decade of scholarship, informed in various ways by feminist theory and queer commentary, challenges us to rethink any easy dismissal of the objects… Full Review
March 28, 2000