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

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Alexander Nemerov
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2023. 336 pp.; 59 color ills.; 7 b/w ills. $35.00 (9780691244280)
Margaretta M. Lovell
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2023. 352 pp.; 84 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. $94.95 (9780271092782)
Ecocritical art history has expanded the range of questions we ask of visual art, moving beyond landscape studies to consider the ways in which artworks are entwined with ecology as well as with global systems of trade, colonialism, and enslavement. Two new books about depictions of nature in the United States during the nineteenth century beg to be considered in this light. While neither author adopts the label “ecocriticism,” and each pursues a radically different methodology, together their books reveal the complex relationship between humans and the environment in the antebellum era. Margaretta Markle Lovell’s Painting the Inhabited Landscape: Fitz… Full Review
April 10, 2024
Richard J. Powell
Third edition. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2021. 304 pp.; 217 ills. Paper $29.95 (9780500204665)
An authoritative survey on predominantly African American art practices in the United States, Richard J. Powell’s Black Art: A Cultural History is now in its third edition, a remarkable feat that speaks to its staying power as a vital source in the field, classrooms, and libraries. It is evidence of an enduring commitment by Powell to sustain the means of analyzing cultural histories and works of art by minoritized artists, and the text’s reappearance gestures towards its contents as unsettled and evolving. Updated and expanded, Black Art participates in a contemporary atmosphere of renewed interest in Black culture and aesthetic… Full Review
April 3, 2024
Andrea Pappas
London: Lund Humphries Pub Ltd, 2023. 192 pp.; 40 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth GPB50.00 (9781848226241)
Embroidering the Landscape: Women, Art and the Environment in British North America, 1740–1770 by Andrea Pappas is a fascinating study of large needlework landscapes from the mid to late colonial period carefully curated by the author for their narrative content in addition to their aesthetic and historical value. Rather than the samplers that readers might expect, Pappas focuses on the monumental overmantels that took pride of place in colonial homes, showcasing the adept needle skills of young girls and women. Such embroideries often originated from pattern books and predetermined designs, but the examples provided by Pappas diverge from this tradition… Full Review
March 27, 2024
Alice Isabella Sullivan
Visualising the Middle Ages, Volume: 15. Leiden: Brill, 2023. 406 pp. Cloth GPB99.17 (9789004529045)
Standard narratives on medieval art focus on Western Europe and conventional stylistic and geo-chronological categories of early medieval, Romanesque, and Gothic; the latter associated with “later medieval art.” Medieval art in and of Eastern Europe is habitually tied to Christian Orthodoxy, identified with Byzantine art, and considered a separate research arena with its own categories: Early, Middle, and Late Byzantine periods, associated with prominent rulers, so also known as Justinianic, Komnenian, and Palaeologan periods. Medieval art of the Slavs is frequently isolated within the narratives about the arts of current nation-states. Wider narratives customarily examine the art of the Slavs… Full Review
March 20, 2024
Catherine Seavitt Nordenson
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2023. 336 pp. $34.95 (9781477327609)
Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx is well known for his groundbreaking production of tropical gardens and public landscape projects within the history of modern Brazilian architecture. Still, he also had an essential role as an activist for environmental preservation. Catherine Nordenson’s book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes under Dictatorship, is a crucial contribution as it reveals Burle Marx’s systematic role as a government councilor defending cultural and environmental preservation. While working on emblematic landscape architecture projects and having a good political transit, the architect used his social position to denounce deforestation and threats to the natural… Full Review
Holly Borham, ed.
Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, 2023. 163 pp. $39.95 (9781646570348)
In 2002, Leo Steinberg donated 3,648 prints from his collection to the Blanton Museum. In a talk there the following year he succinctly said why prints were so important for the study of early modern art: “I had escaped graduate school and was discovering that, for the art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, prints were the circulating lifeblood of ideas." That statement provided curator Holly Borham with an inspired title for this richly illustrated and illuminating catalog that so well describes the work of prints in Steinberg’s writing and thinking about art. The lecture, eventually published in an essay… Full Review
March 6, 2024
Maggie Popkin
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2023. 346 pp. Cloth $99.99 (9781316517567)
Kimberly Cassibry
New York: Oxford University Press, 2023. 320 pp. Cloth GPB64.00 (9780190921897)
Released nearly contemporaneously and with substantial overlap in their corpora, the two volumes under review, Maggie Popkin’s Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome and Kimberly Cassibry’s Destinations in Mind: Portraying Places on the Roman Empire’s Souvenirs share similar agendas—to take seriously the portable, small-scale representations of popular sights and pastimes that recur in the material record of the Roman Empire. Despite these similarities, Popkin and Cassibry take different approaches in achieving their goal and consequently offer distinct yet complementary insights. Popkin’s Souvenirs opens with an introductory chapter establishing key terms and methodological frameworks. The book then proceeds… Full Review
February 28, 2024
Adam Jasienski
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2023. 232 pp.; 50 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. $119.00 (9780271093444)
Charles V never rode his horse into the 1547 battle of Mühlberg. Instead, he spent his time during that conflict on a litter suffering from gout. But Titian’s triumphal equestrian portrait of the king betrays no hint of weakness—physical or otherwise. The monarch sits aloft on a decorous steed, clad in armor, serenely looking beyond the picture plane. He exerts complete control over his horse, his body, and, of course, the spiritual purity of his kingdom (Mühlberg was a decisive victory over Protestant rebels). Politics and religion obliquely congeal in this homage to the king’s might. Nevertheless, it remains a… Full Review
February 22, 2024
Yeon Shim Chung, Sunjung Kim, Kimberly Chung, and Keith B. Wagner
Phaidon, 2020. 360 pp.; 410 color ills. Cloth $79.95 ('9780714878331)
Virginia Moon, ed.
Exh. cat. DelMonico Books in association with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2024. 328 pp.; 228 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9781636810584)
Amidst the international recognition of South Korean art since the 1990s, scholars have devoted increasing attention to Korean modernism and contemporary practices. Following pioneering studies such as Youngna Kim’s Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea (2005) and Charlotte Horlyck’s Korean Art from the 19th century to the Present (2017), two recent publications present English readership with additional insights into the styles, mediums, and subjects of Korean art from the past century: Korean Art From 1953: Collision, Innovation and Interaction (Phaidon, 2020) and the exhibition catalog The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art (2022). The year 1953, marking the beginning… Full Review
January 24, 2024
Amanda Wangwright
Brill, 2020. 168 pp. Cloth $63.00 (9789004441903 )
As the latest addition to Brill’s Modern Asian Art and Visual Culture series, Amanda Wangwright’s The Golden Key: Modern Women Artists and Gender Negotiations in Republican China (1911–1949) complicates our understanding of the agency of women in the making of art in late imperial and modern China alongside Yuhuang Li’s Becoming Guanyin: Artistic Devotion of Buddhist Women in Late Imperial China (Columbia University Press, 2020) and Ying-chen Peng’s Artful Subversion: Empress Dowager Cixi’s Image Making (Yale University Press, 2023). The Golden Key excavates the long-forgotten history of women artists (nühuajia), which Wangwright regards as “a distinctly modernized social… Full Review
January 17, 2024