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

Susan Laxton
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019. 384 pp.; 16 color ills.; 154 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (9781478003076)
In Surrealism at Play, Susan Laxton weaves an alternate history of Surrealism through the concept of play, a historically underacknowledged (yet, in her telling, constitutive) element of the movement. This is serious play: play as process not product, as action and experience. Play undergirds the Surrealists’ ambition not only to remake the art of making art but also to reform intersubjective relations and modern experience; it is a critical force available precisely because it is “not work, not serious, not part of normal life, unreal, inauthentic” (12). Laxton’s crucial interlocutor is Walter Benjamin. Indeed, one could understand her project… Full Review
January 22, 2020
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Lori Boornazian Diel
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 228 pp.; 82 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9781477316733)
A curious pocket-size manuscript made in colonial Mexico, now in the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, has long eluded synthetic assessment, for good reason: its diminutive size belies the complex, hybrid contents—over one hundred pages thick with information in various forms by different hands, previously dismissed as apparently miscellaneous. Recorded primarily in an Aztec pictorial system of writing around 1580, its seemingly incongruent sections engage a range of subjects drawn from both native and European traditions. In this superb monograph by Lori Boornazian Diel, the Codex Mexicanus has finally found its integration. In fact, this study does much… Full Review
January 21, 2020
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Jenny Anger
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018. 320 pp.; 87 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781517903213)
Following up on her 2004 book on Paul Klee and the decorative in modern art (Cambridge University Press), Jenny Anger’s latest volume recounts the history of Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm (1910–32), a Berlin-based cultural venture bringing together art, performance, theater, periodical publishing, teaching, and bookselling, thus continuing her exploration of an expansive notion of modernism that works against essentializing conceptions of the different arts. Simultaneously, the volume looks across the Atlantic to tell the story of the Société Anonyme (1920–50), an undertaking by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray that was modeled on Der Sturm. One of the book’s… Full Review
January 17, 2020
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J. Michael Padgett, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017. 448 pp.; 348 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300225938)
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ, March 4–June 11, 2017; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH, July 8–October 1, 2017
This splendidly illustrated exhibition catalog is devoted to one particularly prominent Attic vase painter, the so-named Berlin Painter. Whereas an exhibition on one artist may still count as a logical choice by curators of an art museum, such a focus on the oeuvre of one individual has become highly unusual within scholarly approaches to Greek art and visual culture over recent decades. The catalog addresses both an art-museum public and scholars of Greek art and archaeology. Nevertheless, a large part of this book responds more specifically to the interests of vase painting research in Sir John Beazley’s connoisseurial tradition—a tradition… Full Review
January 16, 2020
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Malika Maskarinec
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2018. 240 pp. Paper $34.95 (9780810137691)
As suggested by the title of her erudite and intellectually ambitious new book, Malika Maskarinec argues that form is a dynamic concept in modern German philosophical aesthetics. Using the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin’s notion of Formkraft as a critical lens, Maskarinec reads not only the aesthetic theories of Arthur Schopenhauer, Georg Simmel, Theodor Lipps, and Paul Klee but also the experimental writings of Franz Kafka and Alfred Döblin, in terms of a dynamic whereby form-as-force defies (but also in large part depends on) gravity. Despite some terminological slippage (gravity is frequently equated with the weight of matter; form is now… Full Review
January 14, 2020
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Felipe Pereda
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2018. 336 pp.; 118 color ills.; 11 b/w ills.; 336 ills. Cloth €60.00 (9781912554096)
Felipe Pereda’s study Crime and Illusion: The Art of Truth in the Spanish Golden Age offers the reader both an enlightening and a frustrating experience: enlightening in that it provides new insights into the contexts of an important group of Golden Age Spanish religious works, and frustrating due to the author’s repeated attempts to force his investigations into a difficult and ultimately unsustainable theoretical framework. At the outset Pereda states that, instead of having a thesis, his book investigates “a series of singular images from the so-called [Spanish] Golden Age.” It also seeks to understand “the laws that underlie” aspects… Full Review
January 10, 2020
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Dániel Margócsy, Mark Somos, and Stephen N. Joffe
Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy and Science, 28. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2018. 536 pp. Cloth £146.00 (9789004336292)
In spite of decades of scholarship on the history of the book in the age of print, the central mystery that plagues any given history of the book or a book remains the elusive nature of readers’ reception and interpretation of both words and pictures. While the works of Robert Darnton, Roger Chartier, Lisa Jardine, and Anthony Grafton have contributed substantially to the history of reading in Western Europe, there are many questions that remain about the nature of book reception. Such questions are particularly salient when the texts in question are thought to have initiated paradigm shifts in the… Full Review
January 9, 2020
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C/O Berlin, March 16–June 1, 2019
C/O Berlin, a nonprofit venue established in 2000 and solely dedicated to photography, celebrated Boris Mikhailov’s eightieth birthday with an exhibition of five series of photographs. Case History, I am not I, Suzi et cetera, Diary, and the most recent, Temptation of Death, cover his work since the 1960s, when Mikhailov, who worked as a train engineer in Kharkiv, Ukraine, began taking photographs. He is an autodidact whose early work depicts people he knew. His success as an artist began after 1990, and he has lived part-time in Berlin since the late 1990s. Although the… Full Review
January 6, 2020
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Emily C. Burns
Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West, vol. 29. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018. 248 pp.; 121 color ills.; 14 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806160030 )
As the title suggests, Emily C. Burns’s Transnational Frontiers: The American West in France is an evocative look at the “transnational frontiers” where visual art and cultural performance intersected alongside notions of identity, nation, and belonging for French citizens, American image-makers, and Native American performers between 1865 and 1914. This is a powerful study that focuses on different conceptions, depictions, and deployments of “the American West,” which Burns rightly notes is “a slippery concept” when considered within an international setting. By tracing the circulation of visual and material culture of the American West in France at that time, Burns considers… Full Review
January 3, 2020
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Kıvanç Kılınç and Mohammad Gharipour, eds.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019. 336 pp.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $38.00 (9780253039859)
Social housing constructed in Middle Eastern cities since the 1940s has been presented as a solution to several pressing problems, from the crisis of slums and inadequate accommodations for industrial workers to the urban segregation and inequality sustained by colonial housing policies. Social Housing in the Middle East: Architecture, Urban Development, and Transnational Modernity, edited by Kıvanç Kılınç and Mohammad Gharipour, discusses the conditions that call for social housing as well as the societal ramifications of the domestic designs that engage with global “transnational modernity” in urban planning and services. Each region discussed in the book—Tunisia and Egypt in… Full Review
January 2, 2020
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Paul R. Davis and Georges Petitjean
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Collection, 2019. 20 pp.; 11 color ills. Paper
Menil Collection, Houston, September 13, 2019–February 2, 2020
The undulating dotted lines of Mamultjunkunya (2009; pictured at left), by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri of the Pintupi language group, depict a site that appears, within the painting, to be in constant motion: Lake Mackay. This salt lake “features prominently” in the Tingari ceremonial cycle of Tjapaltjarri’s Western Desert region (15). Through song and dance, the ceremony recounts the ancestors’ fashioning of their “Country.” Within the gallery, Mamultjunkunya’s ripples muddle the eye-brain connection and, by extension, destabilize a sense of seeing and perhaps even of knowing. To an extent, the painting may be understood as a metaphor for one argument emerging… Full Review
December 20, 2019
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Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, January 19–July 6, 2019; Diboll Gallery, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, September 26, 2019–January 19, 2020
Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana was a richly textured exhibition on the gender-specific effects of incarceration on cisgender and trans women in the state. The show was centered around a group of over thirty currently and formerly incarcerated women whose life stories formed the basis of visual artworks and music created by a diverse group of artists based in and beyond Louisiana. The works in the show ranged in style and included sculpture, painting, video, installation, photography, and original music played throughout the galleries. Participating artists were selected by museum staff and community stakeholders. The Newcomb Art Museum collaborated with… Full Review
December 18, 2019
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Michael A. Brown, ed.
Exh. cat. San Diego and Madrid: San Diego Museum of Art in association with Ediciones El Viso, 2019. 200 pp.; 100 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780937108604)
San Diego Museum of Art, May 18–September 2, 2019
Art and Empire: The Golden Age of Spain at the San Diego Museum of Art was an exceptional exhibition overall, from the quality of the artworks (one-third of them from the San Diego Museum of Art) to its bilingual wall text and even the use of augmented reality. The art of “Golden Age Spain” brings with it many entrenched and long-standing assumptions, such as the revered status of seventeenth-century Spanish painting and the artists whose names have become associated with this period: Diego Velázquez, Jusepe de Ribera, and Francisco de Zurbarán among them. Art and Empire attempted to redefine our… Full Review
December 16, 2019
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Christopher P. Heuer
Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2019. 256 pp.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $32.95 (9781942130147)
When the artist Olafur Eliasson, with the help of geologist Minik Rosing, hauled eighty tons of Greenland ice to Place du Panthéon for Ice Watch Paris (2015), releasing thirty tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so that Parisians and anyone who had traveled to the city (some for the United Nations Climate Change Conference), burning their own quantum of fossil fuel along the way, could feel they were watching the melting of our polar ice caps, he channeled the Arctic’s cold waters into a river of his spectators’ warm tears. One thing Christopher Heuer does in his timely Into… Full Review
December 12, 2019
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Portland Art Museum, Oregon, March 30–October 13, 2019
Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Actor Prints was a delightful exhibition of a wide variety of Japanese woodblock prints, many on view for the first time. The prints were organized chronologically for the most part, beginning with the eighteenth century and ending with the twentieth. The choices of the curator, Jeannie Kenmotsu (assistant curator of Japanese art with the Japan Foundation), were excellent for a showcasing of numerous famous woodblock-print artists and their actor prints (yakusha-e) from the Kabuki theater celebrity culture. Detailed museum labels provided information for the uninformed viewer as well as specifics for the knowledgeable audience… Full Review
December 11, 2019
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