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

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Tara Zanardi
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 264 pp.; 44 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $94.95 (9780271067247)
Tara Zanardi’s Framing Majismo examines the cultural phenomenon of majismo, the eighteenth-century movement that defined Spanish types drawn from the urban lower classes. She emphasizes that majismo was a product of the Enlightenment as well as a xenophobic reaction to foreign influences, and argues that majismo imagery provides a view into the tensions between gender and class, as well as between tradition and modernity, in eighteenth-century Bourbon Spain. Zanardi brings... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Christopher R. Marshall
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 352 pp.; 88 color ills.; 115 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300174502)
Seventeenth-century Naples was the largest city in Italy, and the second largest in Europe after London. It was also home to a thriving school of painting, with homegrown artists such as Massimo Stanzione, Bernardo Cavallino, and Luca Giordano, as well as foreigners such as Caravaggio, Jusepe de Ribera, and Artemisia Gentileschi. Yet Neapolitan painting has been overshadowed by that of Bologna, Rome, or other schools of Italian painting. Although there has been no shortage of interest in... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Stephennie Mulder
Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. 320 pp.; 121 color ills.; 21 b/w ills. Cloth £ 75.00 (9780748645794)
The topic of ‘Alid shrines in medieval Syria has an established scholarly framework of sectarian arguments. These include, on the one hand, a debate concerning the role of Shi’i doctrine in the proliferation of shrines from the tenth century onward, and on the other, bold statements concerning the culturally transformative impact of the so-called Sunni Revival from the eleventh century. In her introduction to The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi‘is and the Architecture... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Noam M. Elcott
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 312 pp.; 145 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226328973)
To produce the photographs in his Theaters series (1975–2001), Hiroshi Sugimoto brought his still camera into darkened movie palaces and opened the shutter for the full duration of the feature. What appears in the image is something that was never quite there—a glowing rectangle of pure white light caused by the superimposition of every frame of the film during the hours-long exposure. The extended time of capture reveals something else, something that was always there but hidden or... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Wolfgang Brückle, Pierre Alain Mariaux, and Daniela Mondini, eds.
Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2015. 296 pp.; 148 b/w ills. Cloth $79.99 (9783422073340)
Medieval works of art were made to fit into their specific ecclesiastical or secular contexts. Since the eighteenth century, such objects have been removed from their original intended locations and subsequently destroyed or placed into private or public collections. Detached from original context and use, the perception and presentation of medieval art has brought about an inherent tension: on the one hand this process has led to an understanding of medieval objects as standalone artistic... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Laura Weigert
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 290 pp.; 8 color ills.; 143 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781107040472)
Research on the relation between theater and art in the late Middle Ages relies on a rich history, first highlighted in the work of Emile Mâle and Gustave Cohen at the beginning of the twentieth century. The two prominent scholars started a long tradition of looking at exchanges between art and theater, as well as at the perceived “realism” of these media. In her latest book, Laura Weigert proposes a different understanding of theater and art that concentrates on the realms of the fifteenth-... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Susan Rather
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 316 pp.; 100 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 ( 9780300214611)
The Hudson River School painter Asher B. Durand makes a bold declaration at the end of Susan Rather’s The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era. Admiring European pictures during a tour abroad, Durand nonetheless hungers for “a sight of the signboards in the streets of New York” (242). He would have relished the stunning cover of Rather’s book, which reproduces five jaunty top hats from a nineteenth-century hatters’ signboard. This detail... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Kirsten Swenson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 200 pp.; 33 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300211566)
Piecing together a decade-long friendship via artworks, letters, photographs, critical reviews, interviews, and exhibition history, Kirsten Swenson’s Irrational Judgments: Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and 1960s New York adds new scholarship to an already well-documented friendship. This book itself is an outgrowth of the 2014 exhibition organized by the Blanton Museum of Art, Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, but Swenson’s linear reading of their friendship, begun when they... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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H. Ike Okafor-Newsum (Horace Newsum)
Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016. 226 pp.; 137 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781628462258)
What is Neo-Ancestralism? The phrase invokes heritage and cultural memory, but it also hints at a romanticization of the past. Demetrius L. Eudell tackles this concern in his foreword to SoulStirrers: Black Art and the Neo-Ancestral Impulse, arguing that the turn to the past of the artists documented in the book does not reflect the desire for an impossible return, but rather an interest in the “dynamic invention of new cultural forms” that have emerged from Africa by way of the... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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Joanne Pillsbury, Patricia Joan Sarro, James Doyle, and Juliet Wiersema
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 100 pp.; 87 color ills. Paper $25.00 (9781588395764)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 26, 2015–September 18, 2016
Because of its large size relative to a human body, a building can only be known from partial encounters: the view of a particular facade, the transition from exterior to interior when crossing the threshold, the sensation of being inside one of many rooms. The mind must assemble these fragments into a multidimensional panorama to understand the structure as a whole. Even so, aspects remain unknown: the appearance of the roof from above, the thickness of a wall, the view from a clerestory... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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