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

Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens, eds.
Exh. cat. Long Beach, CA: Museum of Latin American Art in association with Fresco Books / SF Design LLC and Duke University Press, 2017. 352 pp.; 200 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9781934491584)
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, September 16, 2017–January 28, 2018; Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, June 1–September 23, 2018; Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling, New York, June 28–September 23, 2018; Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, October 13, 2018–January 13, 2019; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR, February 1–May 5, 2019; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, June 22–September 8, 2019
Consider visual art as a unique mode of communication capable of bridging the multicultural and multilingual Caribbean islands. Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, an exhibition catalogue coedited by Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens (curator of and advisor to the exhibition, respectively), suggests precisely this. Through engaging Caribbean literature and theory, they suggest that visual artwork (here including installation art, paintings, performance, photography, sculpture, and video) can reveal not only shared concerns among the insular Caribbean—that is, its islands—but also the possibility of a “collective and definable discourse around Caribbean visual aesthetics” (29). In part because… Full Review
August 9, 2019
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Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, April 29, 2016–May 12, 2019
“I need my space” proclaims the slogan on today’s ubiquitous NASA-themed T-shirts and hoodies, seen at popular stores like Target, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21. This catchy phrase also adorns lunch boxes, coffee mugs, stickers, magnets, license plate frames, and cell phone wallpaper, collectively perpetuating the notion that NASA is a popular brand, and that it represents freedom through space exploration. While we know that space science is much more complex than that slogan suggests, there is certainly a trend in contemporary culture to romanticize space travel and to make it all seem easy. The Berlin-based American artist Trevor… Full Review
August 8, 2019
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Megan Brandow-Faller, ed.
Material Culture of Art and Design. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 352 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781501332029)
Childhood by Design contains a variety of essays that investigate the reasons toys exist. The design of childhood itself is examined, as well as the ways toys have helped form (and reform) our ideas about children. Commercial factors including manufacturing, marketing, and distribution have influenced toy creation and as a result the creation of children. The book also offers diverse topics, points of view, writing styles, and ideas about what an academic essay can be. In the introduction to the collection, editor Megan Brandow-Faller writes, “Childhood by Design seeks to fuse socio-historical studies of childhood (examining the tension between… Full Review
August 6, 2019
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Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, May 27, 2017–2020
While the use of cutting-edge technology has become increasingly common in contemporary art, it often comes at a price. Slick display of digital technology can easily overshadow content and turn a work of art into gimmick—novel entertainment, at best. Laurie Anderson is arguably the most prominent among the handful of artists today who are aware of this challenge. Building on the legacy of Nam June Paik’s pioneering contributions to what is now called new media, Anderson has passionately embraced technology over the decades, but has diligently used it in the service of content. A multidisciplinary artist of the most versatile… Full Review
August 2, 2019
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Lyndon K. Gill
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018. 312 pp.; 16 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Paper $26.95 (9780822368700)
Toward the end of the last chapter of Erotic Islands, Lyndon K. Gill reflects on the benefits and challenges of “queer ethnography” as a methodology. According to the author, situating the speaking subjects of ethnography is necessary in order to both highlight the “experiential specificity” of the ethnographer’s lived time in the field (213) and to avoid turning ethnographic subjects into “representational abstractions” (215) that overlook the internal dynamism and fluid nature of experiences of blackness and queerness across differing geographical and temporal contexts. Through that, the author invites us to work against a certain pattern of ossification and… Full Review
August 1, 2019
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Caroline Campbell, Dagmar Korbacher, Neville Rowley, and Sarah Vowles, eds.
Exh. cat. London and New Haven, CT: National Gallery in association with Yale University Press, 2018. 304 pp.; 275 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781857096347)
National Gallery, London, October 1, 2018–January 27, 2019; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, March 1–June 30, 2019
Discussion of the interplay between the North Italian Renaissance painters Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna has been a staple of art historical literature, yet this exhibition—Mantegna & Bellini, on view at the National Gallery in London, October 1, 2018–January 27, 2019—was the first to put the two artists toe-to-toe, with their achievements in direct confrontation. It’s not an easy call. These two brilliant artists, joined by family ties and a shared geography, are often treated in violent contrast, one lauded at the expense of the other. Each has a chronology that is frequently disputed. The exact nature of… Full Review
July 31, 2019
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Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Eva Schlotheuber, Susan Marti, and Margot E. Fassler, eds.
2 vols. Düsseldorf: Aschendorff Verlag, 2016. 1440 pp. Hardcover $229.00 (9783402130728)
Upon first encounter, this book is impressive. The size, weight (nineteen pounds), and price of the two volumes of Liturgical Life and Latin Learning at Paradies bei Soest, 1300–1425, as well as the reputations of the authors, heighten reader expectation. Using an understudied liturgical manuscript of high quality as their focal point, this multidisciplinary team sets out to describe and analyze manuscript production and use at the Dominican monastery Paradies during the late Middle Ages. The library collection of this house, founded for nuns in the mid-thirteenth century and located close to the town of Soest, Germany… Full Review
July 29, 2019
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Estelle Blaschke
Leipzig, Germany: Spector Books, 2016. 224 pp. Paper €32.00 (9783944669632)
In the first line of her book Banking on Images: The Bettmann Archive and Corbis, Estelle Blaschke describes William Henry Fox Talbot not as an inventor of photography but, more precisely, as “the inventor of photographic reproducibility.” Today Talbot is firmly ensconced in photographic history as a creator and author of unique photographic objects and publications, which are now prized as material testaments to his individual aesthetic and technical contributions to a new medium. But the shifting perceptions of this position are illuminated when his work appears later in Blaschke’s book as an example of an image that, only… Full Review
July 26, 2019
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Margaret S. Graves
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. 352 pp.; 125 ills. Cloth £55.00 (9780190695910)
The elevation of quotidian objects through technical virtuosity has long been considered a quintessential feature of Islamic visual culture. Accordingly, historians of Islamic art have investigated objects’ potential to accrue shifting meanings, generate affiliations across cultures, and communicate complex rhetorical messages. Rarely, however, have medieval Islamic objects received treatment as constitutive—and even generative—elements of intellectual trends in their own right. Margaret S. Graves shifts this trend with an innovative study that recognizes the full cognitive potentialities of objects. Arts of Allusion focuses on a diverse set of objects from the eastern Mediterranean and Iranian plateau, produced from the ninth through… Full Review
July 25, 2019
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Gary Garrels, ed.
Exh. cat. San Francisco and New Haven, CT: SFMoMA and Yale University Press, 2018. 272 pp.; 230 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300234213)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 15, 2018–March 31, 2019; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, May 4–August 5, 2019; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 24, 2019–January 12, 2020
Alongside modernism’s medium specificity arose a historical distinction between “higher” and “lower” forms, attendant to those media. In such accounts, certain media are presented as agents of distraction and spectacle, others as vessels for sustained attention. That is: the oil painting or the TV set, presented in stark contrast. As scholars have dismantled such essentializing of medium, a critical preference for the subjectivities of modernism persists—a rapt and purified experience, even an ethical exhortation toward patience. Indeed, following such Kantian prejudices for the absorptive, one might easily devolve into what catalogue author Suzanne Hudson critiques as an “undue emphasis on… Full Review
July 24, 2019
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Katie Hornstein
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 208 pp.; 100 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300228267)
In Picturing War in France, 1792–1856, Katie Hornstein examines four distinct phases of the history of the representation of warfare in France, beginning with works made during the revolutionary wars and the First Empire, through the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy, and culminating in the visual culture of the Crimean War of 1853–56. In four impressively researched and eloquently written main chapters, the author examines the viewing experience of contemporary warfare as mediated through paintings, prints, and photographs as well as technologies of mass spectacle with the overarching goal of highlighting “new forms of spectatorship that… Full Review
July 22, 2019
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Alison Isenberg
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. 432 pp.; 43 color ills.; 115 b/w ills.; 158 ills. Cloth $37.50 (9780691172545)
If books were buildings, then recent scholarship on urban development in the post–World War II United States would make a dense city indeed. And those works have offered an ever-widening range of assessments of the nature, shape, costs, and benefits of postwar redevelopment. Over the last decade, historians have looked beyond the roles of architects and planners; considered development practices that crossed municipal and national borders; and sought to escape analytical frameworks built around binaries of top-down versus bottom-up, large- versus small-scale, or modern versus historic. With Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the… Full Review
July 18, 2019
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Lynda Nead
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017. 416 pp.; 190 ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300214604)
In Britain, contradictions characterized the decade and a half following the Second World War. The country, looking to rebuild itself, kept one eye on tradition and continuity, and even resorted to a nostalgia for the Victorian past. The other eye looked toward a clean start, to the innovative, to the modern. In order to convey this entangled “structure of feeling,” Lynda Nead—explicitly building on the gloss that Raymond Williams gave this phrase—makes the brilliant choice of organizing the book The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain around two visual poles that exemplify this tug between past… Full Review
July 15, 2019
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Edward J. Sullivan
The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, vol. 4. New York and University Park, PA: The Frick Collection in association with Penn State University Press, 2018. 224 pp.; 48 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth (9780271079523)
Over the past few decades the arts and visual cultures of Latin America have become an exciting, rediscovered area of scholarly exploration, collecting, and marketing. The increased scholarly attention is evidenced by new academic and museum positions and events, from the creation of curatorial chairs dedicated to Latin American art to world-traveling exhibitions displaying the works of artists from diverse Latin American nations of the colonial through modern periods. These trends have paralleled a vibrant market of international collectors and auction houses that have focused their attention and catalogues on the arts from Central and South America, Mexico, and the… Full Review
July 12, 2019
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Jennifer Jolly
Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 352 pp.; 11 color ills.; 92 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781477314203)
In the collective memory of Mexicans, President Lázaro Cárdenas, who governed the country between 1934 and 1940, is considered an exemplar of nationalism: he is mythically associated with the steadfast defense of national assets such as oil, and with the struggles of peasants and indigenous people. As Verónica Vázquez Mantecón points out in a 2009 article, this mythology reveals Mexicans’ persistent desire for social justice. Having been an active participant in the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20 and later governor of the state of Michoacán before becoming president, General Cárdenas has social and political capital that has remained stable and has… Full Review
July 10, 2019
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