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

Tom Cubbin
Cultural Histories of Design. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 248 pp.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth $114.00 (9781350021990)
In the 1960s the Soviet government undertook a series of political liberalizations leading to a brief period of economic growth, relative intellectual freedom, and improved standards of living. This was Khrushchev’s “Thaw,” a time infused with excitement about the imminent completion of the “construction of communism,” paired with the even more audacious “creative transformation of the world” (Petr Vail and Aleksandr Genis, 60e: Mir Sovetskogo cheloveka, as cited in Cubbin, 29). In this atmosphere of liberated scholarly and artistic thinking, Soviet post–World War II design practices emerged, including the work of the Central Educational and Experimental Studio (the Senezh… Full Review
September 18, 2019
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Tanya Sheehan
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. 216 pp.; 80 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780271081106)
In her compelling social history of photography, Study in Black and White: Photography, Race, Humor, Tanya Sheehan reaches beyond photographs and photographers to examine humor books, minstrel shows, satirical illustrations, advertising, and print culture to reveal the ways that early photographic discourses using humor constructed concepts of race and photographic practice. Across five chapters of case studies, Sheehan demonstrates how written, performed, and sketched humor about photography and jokes made with photographs became avenues for the dehumanization of black and indigenous peoples as well as a route to forge and assert whiteness. Continuing a discursive inquiry into early… Full Review
September 17, 2019
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Martino Stierli and Vladimir Kulić, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2018. 228 pp.; 150 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781633450516)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia 1948–1980 was an archive of radical potential. The highly anticipated architecture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) included over four hundred drawings, plans, photographs, models, and film reels related to the construction, ideological and physical, of the second Yugoslavia (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). Unlike in MoMA’s previous architecture exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 (2015), which used MoMA’s own collection to supply the majority of objects on display, the materials showcased in Toward a Concrete Utopia were the result of extraordinary coordination by the curators and researchers to assemble… Full Review
September 13, 2019
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Lonnie G. Bunch III
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2019. 288 pp.; 20 ills. Cloth $29.95 (9781588346681)
“I wanted a museum that was a tool to help people find a useful and useable history that would enable them to become better citizens; a museum that would explore and wrestle with issues of today and tomorrow as well as yesterday,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch III in A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump (9). Bunch wrote the passage while he was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s nineteenth and newest museum. Then, in the months leading up to the book’s publication and just two… Full Review
September 12, 2019
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Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 540 pp.; 450 color ills. Cloth $48.00 (9780253032058)
In Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla explore Brazilian religious-themed art rooted in European- and African-based faiths. The authors limit their study to the northeastern states of Bahia and Pernambuco, where “Native, European, and African cultures first fused into something new and Brazilian” (2). Their examination demonstrates that artists continue to draw inspiration from both the European- and African-originated sacred subject matter and that the profuse resultant works have become “markers of national identity” with local, national, and international appeal (2). Throughout the text Glassie and Shukla highlight the transformation… Full Review
September 10, 2019
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Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, eds.
Exh. cat. Warsaw: Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, 2018. 330 pp.; 16 color ills.; 52 b/w ills. Paper $29.00 (9788364177446)
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, February 20–June 1, 2015; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, March 18–May 9, 2016; Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile, April 7–August 12, 2018; Sursock Museum, Beirut, July 27–October 1, 2018
Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti’s exhibition Past Disquiet and its accompanying catalog of essays and documents is the result of ten years of research into neglected histories of international solidarity. Their research brings to light a dynamic, sprawling network of Cold War “grassroots cultural diplomacy” projects (57) that often developed independently or at arm’s length from the state. During the 1960s–90s, cultural workers found common cause in anti-imperialist struggles and campaigns for national liberation, justice, and equality. Solidarity was expressed by artists and intellectuals through the organization of exhibitions, the donation of works, and the development of institutions explicitly committed… Full Review
September 9, 2019
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François Brunet
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2017. 400 pp.; 33 b/w ills. Paper €27.00 (9782130654322)
Editor’s note: François Brunet, the author of the book under review, passed away unexpectedly on December 25, 2018. Didier Aubert, Brunet’s first doctoral student, wrote this review and commemoration. While caa.reviews upholds firm conflict of interest guidelines that prevent the commissioning of reviews where there might be a personal or professional connection between reviewer and reviewee, here we made an exception in order to acknowledge Brunet’s significant contributions to the study of American art and culture, both as a scholar and mentor. François Brunet, whose sudden and untimely death on Christmas day last December left countless students and colleagues… Full Review
September 6, 2019
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Henk van Nierop
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. 452 pp.; 123 b/w ills. Cloth €99.00 (9789462981386)
Two themes dominate this premier biography of the Dutch Golden Age celebrity Romeyn de Hooghe: art and ambition. De Hooghe was a prolific and successful graphic artist who produced a wide and diverse array of etchings, engravings, prints, paintings, sculptures, and emblem books and medals, many of whose images are virtually synonymous with the culture of the late Golden Age and can be found in nearly every textbook on the subject. Such were De Hooghe’s skills that the stadtholder-king William III employed them repeatedly in his long-running propaganda wars against his archenemy King Louis XIV of France. Indeed, the imagery… Full Review
September 5, 2019
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Andrew H. Chen
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. 325 pp.; 13 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9789462984684)
Flagellant sodalities originated in 1260 following the tumultuous processions of self-scourging lay penitents who, enflamed by the charismatic Fra Raniero Fasani of Perugia, beseeched God for peace and mercy. Their number significantly increased throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as flagellation became a structured lay male ritual enacted in both private confraternal spaces and public processions. From the later quattrocento, flagellation in large part was no longer a private weekly practice. Rather, it was performed as a grand public spectacle, primarily during Holy Week, when the imitatio Christi experience resonated most profoundly for spectators and battuti (flagellants) alike. The seven-hundredth… Full Review
September 4, 2019
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Gilbert Vicario, ed.
Exh. cat. Phoenix and Munich: Phoenix Art Museum in association with Hirmer Publishers, 2019. 248 pp.; 132 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783777431925)
Steele Gallery, Phoenix Art Museum, March 9–September 8, 2019; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, October 5, 2019–January 5, 2020; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 13–June 21, 2020; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA, August 1–November 29, 2020
North Wing, American Galleries, Phoenix Art Museum, March 30–December 15, 2019
“The Art-form which is form-of-power does not say anything, it Does something to you,” wrote modernist composer, astrologer, and painter Dane Rudhyar nearly a decade before he joined the Transcendental Painting Group (TPG) in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Art as Release of Power, Hamsa, 1929). Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist is the latest ambitious example of a growing fascination with esoterically inspired art that attempted to compel an active, dynamic spirituality into our mundane world: to “do something,” rather than merely illustrate appearances. The exhibition is expertly curated by Gilbert Vicario, the Selig Family Chief Curator at the Phoenix… Full Review
August 30, 2019
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In 1980, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude were invited to Miami to consider completing a work for the New World Festival of the Arts, a large-scale festival spanning the visual and performing arts during the summer of 1982. Their visit would connect them to Miami’s nascent art scene and inspire their self-funded project Surrounded Islands, completed in May 1983, for which the artists transformed Biscayne Bay by surrounding eleven islands with a pink polyethylene fabric. Bridging public sculpture with earth art, Surrounded Islands became one of the couple’s most iconic works. The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)’s recent… Full Review
August 29, 2019
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Kishwar Rizvi, ed.
Arts and Archaeology of the Islamic World, vol. 9. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2017. 224 pp.; 94 ills. Cloth $140.00 (9789004340473)
Attention to structures of patronage in the creation of works of art and architecture has furthered our understanding of the sociopolitical context of material culture in the Islamic world. However, this approach has also overshadowed questions of materiality and a more comprehensive range of human-object relationships. In an attempt to redress this imbalance, scholars have increasingly pushed the roles of the artist, the audience, and the multisensorial experience of spaces and objects to the forefront of the field. Kishwar Rizvi’s Affect, Emotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Muslim Empires represents a collective effort to develop a discourse of reception, audience… Full Review
August 28, 2019
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Stephen F. Eisenman
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 137 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780691175256)
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, September 23, 2017–March 11, 2018
William Blake and the Age of Aquarius at Northwestern University’s Block Museum, curated by Stephen F. Eisenman, is a both learned and highly accessible look at the surprisingly broad influence that William Blake exerted on American artists in the 1960s. By focusing on Blake’s impact, Eisenman manages to present the sixties in a critical light, largely free of the tired nostalgia that usually accompanies the turbulent era. As Eisenman notes in the accompanying catalogue, the term “Age of Aquarius” was made popular by the sixties musical Hair, which played an important role in giving visibility to the style of… Full Review
August 16, 2019
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John P. Jacob and Luke Skrebowski
Exh. cat. London: D. Giles Limited in association with Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018. 252 pp.; 174 ills. Cloth $59.95 (9781911282334)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, June 21, 2018–January 6, 2019; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA, February 22–June 2, 2019
For over two decades the artist and experimental geographer Trevor Paglen has given form to visually elusive subjects, from black-op military bases hidden in Nevada deserts and spy satellites encircling the earth to NSA-tapped fiber optic cables on the Pacific Ocean floor. The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)’s recent midcareer survey brought into focus how Paglen probes the subject of seeing itself—whether as an embodied human act or an algorithmic code. What does it take, to what lengths must one go, to occupy a position from which one can truly see the world? Moreover, how can one… Full Review
August 15, 2019
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William Chapman Sharpe
New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 440 pp.; 113 color ills.; 42 b/w ills.; 155 ills. Cloth $74.00 (9780190675271)
Is a shadow a “physical event” or a “matter of perception? A thing or an absence of something?”(7). In Grasping Shadows: The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film, William Chapman Sharpe argues that the shadow—a phenomenon as illusory and mysterious as it is tangible and commonplace—is a crucial motif employed by artists and writers seeking to express humanity’s relationship to the “unseen.” In this ambitious feat of interdisciplinary criticism, Sharpe demonstrates methodologies such as the close formal analysis of image and text, psychoanalytic theory, and social history to articulate the varied ways in which artistic shadows… Full Review
August 14, 2019
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