Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

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Matthew Affron, Mark A. Castro, Dafne Cruz Porchini, and Renato González Mello, eds.
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2016. 432 pp.; 350 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300215229)
Exhibition schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, October 25, 2016–January 8, 2017; Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, February 3–April 30, 2017; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 25–October 1, 2017
The third and last iteration of Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950 on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2017, is just one of the several exhibitions over the last five years that has sought to examine and complicate the story about the development of avant-garde movements in Mexico and their impact on the cultural and social life of the country. This latest surge of interest in modern Mexican art started with Vanguardia en México 1915–1930, organized... Full Review
June 18, 2018
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Ananda Cohen Suarez
Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 25 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Paperback $29.95 (9781477309551)
The vast area of the Andes was home to extraordinary cultures that produced ritual imagery for millennia before the arrival of the Spanish and continued with new subjects and significance under the dictates of the Catholic Church. Easel paintings by indigenous artists from Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca empire, have received considerable attention along with other Precolumbian and colonial ceramics, metallurgy, architecture, and textiles from the... Full Review
June 15, 2018
What distinguishes the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Calder: Hypermobility exhibition from other recent Calder exhibitions is its presentation of sculpture as performance art. Jay Sanders, the Whitney Museum’s curator of performance art, and his colleagues Greta Hartenstein and Melinda Lang advance the claim that, in order to be adequately apprehended, Calder’s sculptures ought to be seen and heard in motion or, as they would have it, in a state of activation. From... Full Review
June 13, 2018
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Ellsworth Kelly
2018.
Blanton Museum of Art, February 18–April 29, 2017
Seldom is an artist offered the opportunity of creating a complete space. Seldom is an artist offered complete control of the architecture, lighting, and contents of a venue, or given complete control of the experience of the spectator. More seldom still does a public museum afford such an occasion to an artist, allowing for the creation of a truly permanent installation. With the realization of Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin accomplishes this... Full Review
June 11, 2018
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Guy Hedreen
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 408 pp.; 25 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Hardcover $120.00 (9781107118256)
In describing Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini wedding portrait, signed and dated by the artist in 1434, Ernst Gombrich wrote: “For the first time in history the artist became the perfect eye-witness in the truest sense of the term.” But is this actually the first instance? In the late sixth century BCE an Athenian vase painter signed his name “Smikros egrapsen” (Smikros painted it) on a... Full Review
June 8, 2018
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Anne McCauley
Exh. cat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 408 pp.; 364 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300229080)
Princeton University Art Museum, October 7, 2017–January 7, 2018; Davis Museum, Wellesley College, February 7–June 3, 2018; Portland Museum of Art, Maine, June 22–September 16, 2018; Cleveland Museum of Art, October 21, 2018–January 21, 2019
Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925 boldly rethinks the established histories of fine art photography’s development in America, a topic foundational to the history of photography’s origins as a discipline. Clarence H. White (1871–1925) was one of the leading photographers of the American Pictorialist movement, which advocated the practice of photography as a fine art medium. His life and work were conducted in surroundings as varied as the... Full Review
June 7, 2018
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Catherine Walworth
Series: Refiguring Modernism. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 34 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Hardcover $94.95 (9780271077697)
Catherine Walworth’s Soviet Salvage: Imperial Debris, Revolutionary Reuse, and Russian Constructivism is an unusual entry in the literature on early Soviet art, which is sure to puzzle many readers and (in all likelihood) infuriate at least a few. Readers of academic books are familiar enough with such responses, immersed as we are in the unceasing drive for self-criticism and revision that dulls the polemical sting to a tickle. Walworth’s book is no argument for argument’s sake,... Full Review
June 4, 2018
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Jane Taylor
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 165 pp.; 71 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Hardcover $35.00 (9780226791203)
Jane Taylor, friend and longtime collaborator of William Kentridge, examines the artistic process behind Kentridge’s 2010 production of the Russian opera The Nose, which was based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 short story of the same name and composed by Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich in 1928. As Taylor tells us, the book is less about the production of the opera and more about the making of it. In other words, she is interested in examining how the artist deals with... Full Review
May 31, 2018
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When SmartHistory.org, the online scholarly resource for art history students and instructors, debuted in 2007, it was a radical proposition. Instead of purchasing expensive textbooks, students could access videos modeling in-depth visual analysis of well-known works of art and architecture, robustly researched essays on single works and overarching themes, and images that articulate a global art history survey, free through their web browser. Both... Full Review
May 23, 2018
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Heidi C. Gearhart
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 236 pp.; 30 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Cloth $94.95 (9780271077154)
Through the pages of Heidi Gearhart’s book, Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art, readers are introduced to the surviving medieval copies of Theophilus’s text, On Diverse Arts, and are provided the opportunity to reframe the academy’s classification of this celebrated treatise. Gearhart makes a convincing argument that based on physical evidence, along with the prologues and instructions of On Diverse Arts (often described as a practical handbook or a... Full Review
May 21, 2018
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