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

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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... 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,... Full Review
August 9, 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... Full Review
August 6, 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... Full Review
August 1, 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... 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.... 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... Full Review
July 25, 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... 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... 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... Full Review
July 15, 2019
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