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

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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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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