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

Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler
Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2020. 448 pp.; 103 color ills.; 227 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781606066669)
This hefty tome chronicles the decades of freewheeling acquisition that resulted in Louise and Walter Arensberg’s collections of modernist painting and sculpture and of art of the preconquest Americas. The Arensbergs also amassed the world’s largest collection of books by and about empiricist philosopher Francis Bacon, whom Walter (a Harvard-educated poet and literary sleuth) believed to have written Shakespeare’s plays and encrypted them with clues to his authorship. In this book’s coauthored essay, designer Mark Nelson and cultural historian William H. Sherman speculate that Arensberg’s lifelong interest in codes, conundrums, and what Bacon called the “parabolical” (402) underlay the evocative… Full Review
April 20, 2021
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Esmée Quodbach, ed.
The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, vol. 5. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 248 pp.; 92 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (9780271086088)
The last two decades have witnessed a steady increase of interest in the history of taste and collecting, in America and beyond. This trend is reflected in, but also stimulated by, the recent establishment of three important book series: Studies in the History of Collecting & Art Markets (Brill) and the Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700–1950 (Routledge), both initiated in 2016, and the Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America (Penn State University Press), initiated in 2014. All three initiatives attest to the interdisciplinary nature of the research… Full Review
April 15, 2021
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Paul Rodgers
New York: Paul Rodgers/9W, 2018. 170 pp.; 87 ills. Coth $60.00 (9780692845479)
Molly Warnock
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 280 pp.; 41 color ills.; 89 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271085029)
Paul Rodgers
New York: Paul Rodgers/9W, 2020. 114 pp.; 84 ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780578630786)
The artist Simon Hantaï (1922–2008), who was Hungarian born, made his way to Paris in 1948 and became a longtime French resident. Knowledgeable about both Marxism and Catholic tradition, he was inspired by the art of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as by the visiting exhibitions of Jackson Pollock, to make ambitious abstract paintings and develop a highly personal aesthetic. Well-known in France thanks to gallery exhibitions, he is not as familiar a figure in the American art world. And so the books under review, which offer very different perspectives, deserve a warm welcome. It is impossible to… Full Review
April 13, 2021
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Gregory Salter
London: Routledge, 2019. 224 pp.; 30 b/w ills. E-book £44.99 (9781003084686)
The post–Second World War era was marked by profound changes that altered almost every aspect of British society. These were particularly visible in the domestic sphere, which had been fractured and fragmented by war and was undergoing a long period of reconstruction in the decades after 1945. In his book, Art and Masculinity in Post-War Britain: Reconstructing Home, Gregory Salter delves right into the notion of the postwar home in its tangible and intangible formations. The book is presented as a series of case study chapters on male artists: John Bratby, Francis Bacon, Francis Newton Souza, Victor Pasmore, and… Full Review
April 8, 2021
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Nina Amstutz
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 280 pp.; 82 color ills.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300246162)
Nina Amstutz opens her new history of Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes boldly, with the same painting with which Joseph Leo Koerner began his now-canonical Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape (Yale University Press, 1990): the 1828 Trees and Shrubs in the Snow (Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany). Many of her arguments are efforts to give body to Koerner’s formal insights and to ground his observations more fully in the discourse of Friedrich’s time. Koerner’s ekphrasis is commonly cited as some of the best visual writing in the discipline, and Amstutz admirably keeps pace in a book whose premise… Full Review
April 6, 2021
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Jody Patterson
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 264 pp.; 72 color ills.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780300241396)
Readers of Jody Patterson’s excellent Modernism for the Masses: Painters, Politics, and Public Murals in 1930s New York will reconsider set narratives of midcentury modernism in the United States, as well as discover a great deal about the importance of modernism under the aegis of the New Deal art programs. Patterson’s exacting analyses of the ideological, cultural, political, and historical factors behind the marginalization of midcentury modernist murals do important work to contextualize both realism and abstraction as applied to mural painting. During the Great Depression, Patterson reminds us, the United States experienced a public mural renaissance funded by various… Full Review
April 1, 2021
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Wadsworth A. Jarrell
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 320 pp.; 89 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9781478000563)
AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art toward a School of Thought is a necessary source for the study of the Black Arts Movement. Wadsworth A. Jarrell, a founding member of AFRICOBRA, successfully weaves together personal recollections, accounts from fellow artists, and a myriad of secondary sources to represent a multifaceted view of Black Experimentalism across collective artistic practice in Chicago. Although the author provides no concrete definition for Black Experimentalism, he demonstrates this practice as a commitment to community, improvisation, and transforming Black cultural forms and artistic boundaries. Jarrell constructs a rich narrative across this memoir that augments and in some… Full Review
March 30, 2021
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Adrienne L. Childs
Exh. cat. Washington, DC and New York: Phillips Collection in association with Rizzoli Electa, 2020. 208 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780847866649)
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, February 29, 2020–January 3, 2021
(Click here to view the online exhibition.) “Modernism was seen as a huge moment historically and culturally—this was the language of the oppressor” (58). Black artist Sanford Biggers made this statement in 2018 while contemplating the role that German art historian Carl Einstein’s book Negerplastik played in introducing him to African sculpture and its transformative potential. When considered alongside Biggers’s 2016 work of the same name—featuring a repurposed quilt with a geometric pattern and an upright, floral-patterned sculptural figure casting a shadow—the statement captures the tug and pull of both African art and European interest in it for Black artists… Full Review
March 25, 2021
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Nathaniel Silver
Exh. cat. Boston and New Haven, CT: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 256 pp.; 115 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300249866)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, February 13–October 12, 2020
(Click here to view the online gallery guide.) I remember the first time I saw John Singer Sargent’s Thomas McKeller (ca. 1917–20) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (acquired in 1986), while gathering comparative material for my research on James Richmond Barthé (1901–1989), whose oeuvre is dominated by Black male nudes. The painting and accompanying sketches are the only known true-life depictions of McKeller, and, like in Sargent’s Madame X (1884), the model looked away from the artist, obscuring what could have been a factual portrait. Although for different reasons, both portraits remained in Sargent’s possession (and thus unknown… Full Review
March 23, 2021
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Finbarr Barry Flood, ed.
Munich: Hirmer, 2019. 488 pp.; 224 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9783777432434)
There Where You Are Not: Selected Writings of Kamal Boullata brings together an impressive collection of texts by Palestinian artist, critic, theorist, poet, and writer Kamal Boullata (1942–2019). Born in Jerusalem, Boullata was first trained by icon painter Khalil Halabi before graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. Though Boullata is known in the international art scene for his colorful, geometric abstract paintings and silkscreens inspired by Arab calligraphy and traditional Palestinian textiles, his many other facets, such as his theoretical legacy and broad scholarly interests, are revealed in… Full Review
March 18, 2021
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Anne Monahan
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 264 pp.; 96 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300243307)
Conceptions of race have limited the trajectory of American art history since its inception in the early nineteenth century. Anne Monahan reckons with this condition in Horace Pippin, American Modern, building her arguments alongside a systematic dismantling of the scaffolding of racist ideology that has supported many misunderstandings of the painter Horace Pippin (1888–1946). Her groundbreaking book helps to deracinate a powerful “art-historical caste system” that has consistently mistreated autodidacts, particularly those of color (2). Horace Pippin shines in the midst of an overdue racial reckoning in the United States, to which it makes a substantial scholarly contribution. Pivotal… Full Review
March 16, 2021
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Natilee Harren
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 12 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780226354927)
“We had thought, too, about the tireless activity of the Fluxus group—but how could we have shown an infinite overproduction without instantly betraying and limiting it?” Such is Yve-Alain Bois’s explanation for excluding Fluxus from Formless, the exhibition and “user’s guide” he coorganized and cowrote with Rosalind E. Krauss (Zone Books, 1997, 24). Taking inspiration from Georges Bataille’s short, evocative dictionary entry on l’informe in the Surrealist journal Documents, the duo set out to “redeal modernism’s cards” (Bois and Krauss, 21). L’informe, they explained, denoted a leveling operation that could corrupt Clement Greenberg’s formalism without succumbing to… Full Review
March 11, 2021
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Pauline Rose
Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2020. 336 pp.; 20 color ills.; 101 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (9781789621563)
Working against the Grain: Women Sculptors in Britain c.1885–1950 comes at a timely moment in British art and sculpture studies. In addition to Arts Council Collection’s forthcoming touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945, the Royal Society of Sculptors is exploring the histories and practices of its women members through the research project “Pioneering Women.” Pauline Rose’s monograph was itself prompted by the 2011 online sculpture database Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, the first in-depth study of sculptors and those in related trades active in Britain during the… Full Review
March 9, 2021
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Trevor Stark
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020. 440 pp.; 10 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780262043717)
At the opening of Trevor Stark’s new book is a faded photograph by Paul Nadar of the poet Stéphane Mallarmé in 1895. Seated at a writing desk, with a shawl around his shoulders, he meets our gaze with an inscrutable expression. His pen is laden with ink from the bottle before him, but it hovers in the writer’s hand somewhere above the empty white page. It is an apt image to lead us into Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language after Mallarmé, a rich and absorbing exploration of the stakes for radical art and language in… Full Review
March 4, 2021
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Izumi Nakajima
Tokyo: Brücke, 2019. 362 pp.; 152 b/w ills. Cloth ¥3800.00 (9784434264696)
In this groundbreaking book, Izumi Nakajima defines “anti-action” as Japanese women artists’ counterapproach to “action” painting by male artists, emphasizing their creation in the 1950s and 1960s. The volume is not just about how gender shaped women’s artistic practice in the period, however; as indicated by its subtitle, another subject is postwar Japanese art itself. Nakajima aims to reinterpret the field as a whole by examining how gender colored contemporaneous art criticism and the subsequent narrative on the subject (by targeting discursive practices in Japan). This book is an ambitious undertaking—practically the first of its kind—as there have been few… Full Review
March 2, 2021
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