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

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J. F. Heijbroek and Margaret F. MacDonald
Zwolle, Netherlands: University of Washington Press and Waanders, 1998. 144 pp.; 29 color ills.; 157 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9040091838)
On September 3, 1889, James McNeill Whistler wrote a letter from Amsterdam to the Fine Arts Society in London describing, with an undercurrent of Whistlerian sarcasm, his most recent artistic activity: "I find myself doing far finer work than any I have hitherto produced—and the subjects appeal to me most sympathetically—which is all important. . . . I have begun etchings here—that already give me great satisfaction—I shall therefore go on, and I will produce new plates—of various sizes—The... Full Review
May 10, 1999
Richard Townsend, ed.
New York: Thames and Hudson in association with Art Institute of Chicago, 1998. 446 pp.; 258 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0500050929)
The lively ceramic traditions of ancient West Mexico are well-known: bold, painted warriors, women, and animals, including the famous Colima dogs; small painted house models and village scenes in which humans feast, play ball, and dance. Much of this work was created in the era between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D., the Late Formative phase of Mesoamerican cultural history. Although visually familiar, this work has never been well understood. It has seldom been studied on its own terms, but seen... Full Review
May 10, 1999
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Mary Warner Blanchard
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 320 pp.; 221 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300074603)
In this study, Mary Warner Blanchard re-reads the American aesthetic movement as a broad-based, popular enterprise that produced a vibrant, female, public culture through the medium of the decorative arts. Her goal is to rescue important "female visionaries" of the movement from the oblivion that befell them through most of the twentieth century. (pp. xiv-xv) Blanchard selects four fascinating and underrated figures for reevaluation: textile designer Candace Thurber Wheeler, poet Celia... Full Review
May 7, 1999
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Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, eds.
New York: Phaidon, 1998. 304 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0714835145)
Among European publishers of books on environmental art, largely American, there seems to be a consensus that the representation of projects encompassing such extensive terrain demands oversize display. The sizes of printed pages, illustrations, and often fonts, are jumbo, sheets are thick, pages in great number, overall, the tomes hefty. Thus Gilles Tiberghien's Land Art, published by Editions Carres, Paris, in 1993, and in an English translation by Princeton Architectural Press in... Full Review
May 7, 1999
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Paul Hayes Tucker, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 192 pp. Paper $49.95 (0521479843)
For all the directness of its facture, and despite the candor of model Victorine Meurent's knowing (yet somehow alienated) gaze, Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a manifesto of modern painting, has always proved problematic when it comes to critical and historical interpretation. At the time of its succes de scandale at the Salon des refusés in 1863, one critic admitted that he searched "in vain for the meaning" of it. Since that time, various readings have been suggested, none... Full Review
May 6, 1999
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Michael Kelly, ed.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 2224 pp.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $495.00 (0195113071)
The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics will be a useful resource to students, practitioners, and historians of the arts, as well as to aestheticians and other philosophers. But this may not be evident from its title. For those who define terms narrowly, this publication tests the boundaries of "aesthetics" and "encyclopedia." However, those who are simply wary of reading about aesthetics or of consulting encyclopedias will be pleasantly surprised. Aesthetics, here, is interpreted broadly, and... Full Review
May 3, 1999
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Philip W. Jackson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 222 pp. Cloth $48.00 (9780300072136)
Pragmatism maintained that a proposition must be tested, rendered active, before it can be deemed valid. The criteria of judgment that William James set out is simply "what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world formula or that world formula be true." It is therefore appropriate that the first American school of theory should be used to test the operations of contemporary American art. William James's criteria is extended by the... Full Review
April 30, 1999
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Cecil L. Striker and Y. Dogan Kuban, eds.
Munich: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1997. 150 pp.; 35 color ills.; 144 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (3805320264)
When the International Congress of Byzantine Studies convened in Istanbul in 1955, none of its delegates was able to enter the Byzantine church now known as the Kalenderhane Camii, even though it lay barely five minutes from Istanbul University. Locked and abandoned, the building was not penetrated until a decade later, when Striker received permission to cut the lock, the key having long since disappeared. The state of decrepitude he found could not disguise the Kalenderhane's historical... Full Review
April 30, 1999
Irmgard Siede
Munich: EOS Verlag, 1997. 333 pp.; 12 color ills.; 68 b/w ills. €57.30 (388096629X)
In 1891, Wilhelm Vöge inaugurated the modern academic study of Ottonian book illumination with the publication of his dissertation, Eine deutsche Malerschule um die Wende des ersten Jahrtausends (Trier, 1891). Vöge's still classic monograph assembled a cohesive corpus of selected Ottonian manuscripts based on an investigation that included stylistic, iconographic, and textual criticism; his Malerschule has since been attributed to the monastic scriptorium of Reichenau. Despite... Full Review
April 29, 1999
Hans Belting
Trans. Scott Kleager. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 128 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0300076169)
The brevity and informal nature of these essays, first published in German in 1992, should not obscure their density, just as the length and extremely formal nature of Belting's Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art should not obscure the clarity of its essential argument. That dichotomy—dense, "formless" evocation versus brief, "rational" argument—will be familiar to Belting, since it is one of the manifestations of the "troublesome" relationship between... Full Review
April 22, 1999
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