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

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Philip M. Peek, ed.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012. 376 pp.; 36 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (9780253223074)
Existing African arts and cultures scholarship’s disproportionate attention on how twin births constitute a problem to parents and community is challenged in Twins in African and Diaspora Cultures, as the volume takes a dialectic approach to show how twins embody ambiguity. The subtitle, “Double Trouble, Twice Blessed,” foregrounds this premise. In several African cultures, twins are viewed through the prism of complementary duality, which is fundamental to African belief systems and... Full Review
August 10, 2017
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Heidi King, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. 232 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300169799)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 26–September 1, 2008
Peruvian Featherworks: Art of the Precolumbian Era, edited by Heidi King, is an important contribution to a profoundly complex yet largely overlooked artistic genre: Andean featherwork. While feather mosaics from Mesoamerica have received much scholarly attention and praise, featherwork of the Andes has largely been ignored. In a review of The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820 (click here for review) at the Los... Full Review
August 4, 2017
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Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen, eds.
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016. 498 pp.; 25 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Cloth $140.00 (9783110340433)
Is interiority a place or a state of mind? According to Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen, the editors of Interiors and Interiority, we are wrong to pose the question as “either-or”; even “both-and” is an insufficiently capacious answer. Backed up by twenty-two essays, mostly by German and U.S. scholars, Lajer-Burcharth and Söntgen argue that the relationship between interiors and interiority is not limited to private spaces and individual psychology but engages just as ineluctably... Full Review
August 3, 2017
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Winnie Won Yin Wong
Chicago: University of Chicagp Press, 2013. 320 pp.; 27 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $38.00 (9780226024899)
Unknowingly, many of us have likely come into contact with some of the primary products of China’s Dafen village: handmade oil paintings, which resemble Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) and other “masterworks,” that hang in hotels, restaurants, and homes, and are sold online and in souvenir shops, galleries, and chain stores around the world. Located in Shenzhen, a megacity across from Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China’s first Special Economic Zone, Dafen has heretofore... Full Review
August 2, 2017
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Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi, eds.
Double Exposure, Vol. 3. Lewes, UK: Giles in association with Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2015. 72 pp.; 60 color ills. Paper $16.95 (9781907804489)
Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi, eds.
Double Exposure, Vol. 2. Lewes, UK: Giles in association with Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2015. 80 pp.; 60 color ills. Paper $16.95 (9781907804472)
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has engaged the public through its online and social media presence and by producing and collaborating on exhibitions and books that showcase visual and audio materials from its collections since 2007. Much of this material is from the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA), a physical and virtual center that collects, promotes, and preserves African American... Full Review
August 2, 2017
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Mantha Zarmakoupi
Oxford Studies in Ancient Culture and Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 135 b/w ills. $160.00 (9780199678389)
This ambitious study originated in 2007 as Mantha Zarmakoupi’s Oxford University DPhil thesis. Several years of further research have allowed her to develop her ideas and deepen her bibliographic research on the archaeology and architecture of Roman villas and the cultural life that villas framed. She aims, in brief, to examine “the ways in which Romans conceptualized the architectural design of luxurious villas in order to accommodate a life of educated leisure in the countryside” (1). In... Full Review
July 27, 2017
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Shannen L. Hill
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 26 color ills.; 93 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780816676378)
The conviction and vitality with which Shannen L. Hill explores visual culture as an agent of change shaped by Black Consciousness (hereafter, BC) and embodied in ideas and images of its leading advocate, Stephen Biko, took me back to late 1980s South Africa when I, a bright-eyed freshman, optimistically threw myself into the student liberation movement at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. There I and others designed, printed, and carried protest posters informed by an... Full Review
July 26, 2017
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Tom Nickson
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 324 pp.; 60 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271066455)
The title of Tom Nickson’s impressive and beautifully illustrated monograph, Toledo Cathedral: Building Histories in Medieval Castile, cleverly highlights the dual agenda of his ambitious study of the Spanish cathedral. As a book dedicated to a single work of architecture, it endeavors to untangle the complicated and often tacitly accepted building history of the cathedral’s construction from the early thirteenth through late fourteenth centuries. In so doing, Nickson reveals how the... Full Review
July 20, 2017
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Duncan Clarke
New York: Prestel, 2015. 272 pp.; 230 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9783791381633)
Textiles are key to understanding the past. From sartorial practice to divisions of labor and patterns of trade, textiles serve as historical documents that often reveal as much about the people who produced and wore them as they do about those who collected, traded, copied, or admired them. African Textiles: The Karun Thakar Collection is a step toward documenting a significant private collection of textiles that shows potential for increasing our understanding of this important... Full Review
July 19, 2017
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John Guy, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. 336 pp.; 304 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300204377)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 14–July 27, 2014
In spring 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented a groundbreaking exhibition of early Hindu and Buddhist artworks from Southeast Asia. Aptly titled Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, the exhibition brought together treasures from nearly thirty institutions and collections across nine different countries, many of which had never before traveled outside their country of origin. Carefully grouped, juxtaposed, and emplaced in the Metropolitan’s... Full Review
July 13, 2017
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