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

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Carla Yanni
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 224 pp.; 103 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0801863260)
In the heart of McGill University, in downtown Montreal, sits a remarkable building. Supposedly Canada's first purpose-built natural history museum at the time of its opening in 1882, the Redpath Museum is now a particularly popular place with children because of its splendid Albertosaurus libratus, among other dinosaur remains. Our four-year old son, in fact, calls it the "Dino Museum." Many McGill students, unfortunately, have never been inside. Perhaps this is because the rich collections... Full Review
November 7, 2000
Warren Adelson, Jay Cantor, and William Gerdts
Abbeville Press, 1999. 256 pp.; 200 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0789205874)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1881) repeatedly noted in his voluminous journals the wonders of the eye and the extraordinary advances in vision achieved during his lifetime as artist, inventor, and scientist. In 1837 he titled the revelations accorded by a walk with a landscape painter or with a telescope as "New Eyes." By 1871 he proclaimed five miracles of the age citing the astronomer's spectroscope and the photograph among them. No wonder in an isolated sentence in his journals Emerson... Full Review
November 5, 2000
Jonathan Nelson
Florence: Edizioni Cadmo, 1999. 140 pp.; 4 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Cloth $12.95 (8879232150)
"Why were there no great women artists?" pondered Linda Nochlin in 1971. Since that famous query, art historians have unearthed many talented women artists, while simultaneously challenging the criteria by which we evaluate their works. This volume of eight essays contributes to that ongoing excavation and reassessment in several important ways. The essays document the life, works, and influence of a little-known female painter in sixteenth-century Florence, the Dominican nun-artist Suor... Full Review
October 25, 2000
Thomas Martin
Oxford University Press in association with Clarendon Press, 1998. 274 pp.; 164 b/w ills. Cloth $145.00 (0198174179)
The study of 16th-century Venetian sculpture was, and still is, badly neglected. Even so eminent an artist as Alessandro Vittoria (Trent, 1525 Venice, 1608) has not yet been accorded the attention his achievements deserve. It is, therefore, with great expectations that one picks up the promisingly important-looking book by Thomas Martin. The book is based on Martin's doctoral dissertation (Columbia University, 1988) and is divided in two parts: the study itself, in which Martin tries to... Full Review
October 24, 2000
Greg M. Thomas
Princeton University Press, 2000. 280 pp.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0691059462)
Greg Thomas's book Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau provides the reader with a long-awaited reevaluation of French landscape painting before the Impressionist period. While the study of Impressionism has sometimes become synonymous with French landscape painting during the nineteenth century, very little has been done, apart from the recent exhibitions of Camille Corot's work, to reassess the artistic contribution of the preceding... Full Review
October 24, 2000
Francis Ames-Lewis
Yale University Press, 2000. 322 pp.; 50 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (0300092950)
This book is an amazing compendium of information concerning the reevaluation of painting and sculpture as parts of the liberal arts during the early Renaissance (1290-1520); architecture is all but excluded because its position was already rather elevated. The observation in itself is not new; assessment of the graphic arts was a leitmotif of art historical scholarship throughout the twentieth century. What is impressive is the myriad aperçus Ames-Lewis has amassed and divided into eleven... Full Review
October 20, 2000
Catherine de Zegher, ed.
MIT Press, 1999. 304 pp.; 47 color ills.; 97 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (026204174X)
International Center for Photography, New York, July 29-October 1, 2000; in collaboration with The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, July 15-October 8, 2000.
Like other post-conceptual artists of her generation who adapted the 1960s' formal convention of the series to sustained analytical investigations of social phenomena (think of Allan Sekula's Aerospace Folktales, for example, or Mary Kelly's Postpartum Document), Martha Rosler has produced a body of work over the last thirty-five years that has proven difficult to assimilate to the promotional ways and means of the art world. From her photodocumentary-cum-image/text work The... Full Review
September 29, 2000
Benjamin Buchloh
MIT Press, 2001. 576 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Cloth (0262024543)
This is a terrific collection of essays that provides a valuable opportunity to review the intellectual development and ambitions of one of the leading critics of our time. It offers access to the author's enterprise from a distinctive vantage point: saving for a second volume his influential period and approach studies--essays such as "Formalism and Historicity" (1977), "Allegorical Procedures" (1982), and "Cold War Constructivism" (1990)--and his well-known "from/to" critical developmental... Full Review
September 27, 2000
Kalman P. Bland
Princeton University Press, 2001. 233 pp. Paper $19.95 (069108985x)
"Art history is what one Jew tells another Jew about goyishe (i.e.--Christian) art." This, at any rate, is how my teacher, Stephen S. Kayser, flippantly spoke of his discipline. Kayser, a member of the German émigré generation, author of an important study on Grünewald's Isenheim altarpiece and founding director of the Jewish Museum in New York, was not far from wrong. Highly acculturated Jews have been disproportionately represented in the ranks of art historians. Among the "greats"... Full Review
September 24, 2000
John Gage
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 320 pp.; 37 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520220390)
John Gage's book Color and Culture appeared with considerable acclaim in 1994, and it won that year's Mitchell Prize for art history. It was a dense, ambitious, yet readable exploration of color in Western art from the Classical era to the 20th century--or rather, of ideas about color, since Gage gave more attention to writings about the subject than to actual examples of practice. For instance, he devoted far more space to Matisse's "Notes d'un peintre" (1908) and other written and... Full Review
September 20, 2000