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

BuYun Chen
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019. 272 pp.; 96 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780295745305)
Mariachiara Gasparini
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2019. 278 pp.; 20 color ills.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $74.00 (9780824877989)
Eiren L. Shea
Routledge Research in Art History. New York: Routledge, 2020. 206 pp.; 30 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $124.00 (9780367356187)
The three books reviewed here represent recent monographs on dress and textiles and their movements along the Silk Roads in the medieval and early modern periods. The study of dress and textiles has often been marginalized in art history, and the materials dismissed as minor or decorative arts—a marginality that is compounded by the limited survival of textiles and garments from earlier historical periods, which sometimes remain only as reused scraps. Textiles have been recognized as evidence for the exchange of ideas and technologies across Eurasia, as markers of trade, cultural contact, and interaction, but far less frequently as visual-culture… Full Review
May 28, 2021
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Lei Xue
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019. 240 pp.; 8 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780295746364)
At the end of Eulogy for Burying a Crane and the Art of Chinese Calligraphy, Lei Xue describes seeing boulders that had been hauled out of the muddy waters of the Yangtze River at the island of Jiaoshan in modern-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. This highly publicized and costly expedition was meant to salvage the remaining fragments of the famous Eulogy for Burying a Crane (Yi he ming, hereafter Eulogy) stone inscription dated to 514 CE that had partially collapsed into the river. In the eleventh century, the inscription was only visible in the wintry months when the water… Full Review
May 27, 2021
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Anneka Lenssen
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 296 pp.; 57 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520343245)
How did artists in Syria develop Arab modernist painting and aesthetic philosophies at the start of a century characterized by warfare and in the midst of the violent imposition of borders by colonial powers, the displacement of people, and the assignment of new identities? Anneka Lenssen’s Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria explores the question of modern art’s place in this turbulent era. The book is an authoritative study of the emergence of modernist art in the context of contemporary politics and territorial contestations in Syria, spanning from the last years of the Ottoman Empire through 1965… Full Review
May 24, 2021
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Marni Reva Kessler
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021. 320 pp.; 12 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781517908805)
In a rapidly growing canon of scholarship on food in art, Marni Reva Kessler adds her personal voice and unique approach to the subject in Discomfort Food: The Culinary Imagination in Late Nineteenth-Century French Art. In four chapters on depictions of fish, butter, fruit, and ham by French artists Édouard Manet, Antoine Vollon, Gustave Caillebotte, and Edgar Degas, Kessler purposefully chooses not to focus on the food’s delicious and mouthwatering qualities—a striking choice, given France’s reputation for culinary excellence. Rather, Kessler analyzes unsettling pictures of fish postmortem, stabbed butter, and discarded meats that dismantle popular understandings of food pictures… Full Review
May 21, 2021
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Yuhang Li
Premodern East Asia: New Horizons. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 312 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9780231190121)
The role of a bodhisattva in Buddhism has often been compared to that of a saint in Catholicism: an intimate and approachable divine figure who would be willing to put their own enlightenment on pause in order to ensure the salvation of all sentient beings. Among all, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin in Chinese), known as the Goddess of Compassion in English, has an outsize role in East Asian Buddhism. While she is ubiquitous in Chinese art, the Goddess of Compassion is woefully underrepresented in scholarly works, which focus mainly on imperially sponsored icons and primarily from the perspective of elite… Full Review
May 20, 2021
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Michèle Hannoosh
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2019. 248 pp.; 31 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271083575)
Readers may know Michèle Hannoosh best from her work on the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. Alerted to error-riddled versions of his famous Journal (while researching her landmark Painting and the “Journal” of Delacroix, Princeton University Press, 1995), Hannoosh returned to its sources. In her two-volume critical edition of the Journal (José Corti, 2009) and associated publications, Hannoosh brought to light a vast array of new material and ordered a labyrinth of cross-references. In Jules Michelet, Hannoosh focuses on an inaugural specialist in what Michel Foucault called “history itself” (L’Archéologie du savoir, Gallimard, 1969, 13). Two… Full Review
May 18, 2021
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Satish Padiyar
London: Reaktion Books, 2020. 248 pp.; 114 color ills. Cloth $55.00 (9781789142099)
Like the Rococo style his work came to epitomize, the artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s life was seemingly unpredictable, liberated, and characterized by constant change. Fragonard (1732–1806) began his career by winning the coveted Prix de Rome, and in 1761 he presented an ambitious history painting as his reception piece to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. The painting placed the young artist in high ranking within the elite establishment, but after such success he unexpectedly turned away from public life as an academic painter, prioritizing instead inconsistent commissions from private clients and working in artistic styles that the Académie… Full Review
May 15, 2021
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Nicole R. Fleetwood
Exh. cat. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. 352 pp.; 95 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780674919228)
MoMA PS1, Queens, September 17, 2020–April 5, 2021
There is no inside/outside when it comes to the carceral state. Guest curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood at MoMA PS1 and accompanied by a catalog published by Harvard University Press, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration reckons with how incarceration transforms lives and how, under and against its violent conditions, people make art as a tactic of survival. Incarceration dismantles communities, disproportionately Black and Latinx ones; enforces mass caging; and disenfranchises people long after their sentences end. It is a world-defining system, so much so that it requires new forms of knowledge—beyond art history’s limited gaze—to meaningfully… Full Review
May 12, 2021
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Saloni Mathur
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019. 256 pp.; 64 ills. Paper $25.95 (9781478003014)
(An open-access version of this book is available at OAPEN: Open Access Publishing in European Networks.) Early in her important account of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram, arguably the most significant critic-artist partnership to emerge in postcolonial India, Saloni Mathur characterizes her work as “an ongoing intellectual debt” (xii). The debt may be hers, but it is conveniently shared by everyone working on the history of twentieth-century art and criticism. Building on extended conversations and sustained archival research, Mathur considers Kapur’s writings between the years 1968, when she drafted In Quest of Identity: Art and Indigenism in… Full Review
May 10, 2021
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Polly Gould
London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020. 368 pp.; 103 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9781788311694)
Historically defined by the hypermasculinity of the “Heroic Age” of polar exploration, political contestation, and scientific observation, Antarctica today represents a critical multidisciplinary meeting point. Polly Gould’s Antarctica, Art and Archive offers a timely contribution to the historical study of Antarctica and indicates the refractive interplay among visual media, temporalities, and histories. Gould is both author and artist, and her archival study of the work of Edward A. Wilson and the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910–13 is presented in conversation with her own artistic practice. Taken as a whole, the book brings together a complex series of interrelated histories, materials… Full Review
May 7, 2021
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Alyce Mahon
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020. 296 pp.; 44 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780691141619)
Must We Praise Sade? In her defense of the notoriously vile writings of the Marquis de Sade, “Must We Burn Sade?,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “In a criminal society, one must be criminal” (introduction to The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, trans. Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver, Grove Press, 1966, 58). The oft-cited quote encapsulates the feminist philosopher’s tempered response to the eighteenth-century libertine texts of Donatien Alphonse François (better known as the Marquis de Sade) and their place within modern European history as bastions of unfettered freedom of expression. In novels such as The 120 Days of… Full Review
May 5, 2021
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Hank Willis Thomas
Exh. cat. Contributions by Julia Dolan, Sara Krajewski, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and Kellie Jones. New York and Portland, OR: Aperture Foundation in association with Portland Art Museum, 2018. 256 pp.; 300 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781597114486)
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, October 12, 2019–January 12, 2020; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, February 8–July 13, 2020; Cincinnati Art Museum, September 4–November 8, 2020
The contributors to the exhibition catalog Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal . . . write with depth and acuity about the artist’s complex body of work, which spans three decades. By asking questions about the role of the arts in democratizing visuality and creating a more civically engaged public, the essays by Julia Dolan, Sara Krajewski, and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, as well as an interview between Thomas and the art historian Kellie Jones, combine to convey a deeply reflective portrait of the artist and offer new insights into the breadth of his artistic growth. The catalog and the… Full Review
May 3, 2021
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Bret L. Rothstein
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2019. 228 pp.; 38 color ills. Cloth $29.95 (9780271082424)
I doubt that this review can do justice either to its subject or to its author, though I was somewhat comforted to read that Bret L. Rothstein himself admitted to disliking puzzles. Still, I may not be the right person to review this book, for I confess that I also loathe most puzzles. Deeply frustrating, they make me feel unworthy to share the company of intelligent beings who appreciate them. What is it that allows some people to “get” a puzzle in a matter of minutes while others futilely ponder them, not getting anywhere? Another pause before proceeding: this book… Full Review
April 29, 2021
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Georg Simmel
Ed. Austin Harrington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 392 pp. Paper $35.00 (9780226621098)
In the intellectual history of European modernity, Georg Simmel (1858–1918) remains the prototype for the extraterritorial thinker. Estranged from institutions of official culture, such a figure is singularly attuned to the dynamism of modern life, a sensitive diagnostician who finds in the most fleeting phenomena visible symptoms of a fundamentally altered relationship between objective conditions and states of mind. The centrality of works of art and literature for Simmel’s reflections on society and the money economy galvanized his students, such as Siegfried Kracauer and Ernst Bloch, who radically reconfigured philosophical writing in confrontation with the rise of mass media and… Full Review
April 27, 2021
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Jacques Derrida
Ed. Ginette Michaud, Joana Masó, and Javier Bassas, with new trans. by Laurent Milesi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 328 pp.; 7 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226140612)
Sixteen years after Jacques Derrida’s death, a new collection of essays and interviews devoted to artists and art by the eminent thinker offers a chance to reconsider his impact on the field and ongoing interest in his work. According to the volume’s title, this interest might lie in the plurality of the arts. But why? Why “the arts” rather than art in the singular? Spock’s famous dictum in Star Trek comes to mind: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”—“or the one.” Was Derrida secretly a Trekkie? This dictum, of course, is at the center of… Full Review
April 22, 2021
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