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

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Ara Osterweil
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014. 304 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9780719091919)
Ara Osterweil argues in Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film that the medium operates on the spectator’s sensorium in a uniquely direct and intense way. Films can emphasize this link by depicting bodies in extreme circumstances; for instance, bodies immobilized by drugs, dead and being autopsied, or epileptic and seizing are just some of the precarious versions of corporeality that experimental filmmakers documented in the 1960s and 1970s. But within the array... Full Review
March 17, 2017
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Peter Cooke
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 288 pp.; 50 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300204339)
In Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality, and Symbolism, Peter Cooke explores the artist’s work from its beginnings in the early 1850s to the final ambitious projects of the late 1890s. He examines Moreau’s lifelong endeavor to revitalize le grand art in France—history painting in its most ambitious form—and to combat the endemic materialism of the age with a spiritual and moral type of painting. In the 1840s, Moreau studied under François-Édouard Picot and was enrolled... Full Review
March 15, 2017
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Melissa Dabakis
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 304 pp.; 100 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780271062204)
“I wouldn’t live anywhere else but Rome,” gushed Harriet Hosmer in a letter in 1854. “I can learn more and do more here, in one year, than I could in America in ten” (35). Hosmer was among a few dozen American women sculptors who sought training in Rome during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the subject of Melissa Dabakis’s A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome. The project offers a new contribution to the study of American artists working... Full Review
March 9, 2017
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Jennifer P. Kingsley
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 228 pp.; 18 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271060798)
With The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory, and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany, Jennifer P. Kingsley has made a valuable contribution to English-language scholarship on Ottonian art history. Her immediate focus is an illuminated Gospel book made at the beginning of the eleventh century for the eminent bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (r. 993–1022). The manuscript (Hildesheim, Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, Domschatz 18 [Bernward Gospels]) is illustrated with twenty-four miniatures featuring New... Full Review
March 8, 2017
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Karina H. Corrigan, Jan van Campen, Femke Diercks, and Janet C. Blyberg, eds.
Exh. cat. Salem, MA and Amsterdam: Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2015. 356 pp.; 305 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300212877)
Exhibition schedule: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, October 17, 2015–January 17, 2016; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, February 27–June 5, 2016
Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age is an illustrated catalogue produced to accompany the Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum exhibition of the same name. Focusing attention on the important role the Dutch played in facilitating and celebrating the material results of cross-cultural trade, it draws together a collection of stunning objects that were exchanged between Europe and Asia in the seventeenth century. The objects selected are remarkably wide-ranging not... Full Review
March 8, 2017
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Reiko Tomii
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 18 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $36.95 (9780262034128)
Reiko Tomii’s Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan is an impeccably researched and well-written contribution to the modernist art history of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. It also presents a challenge to an art history of modernisms beyond Euramerica. The research deals via case studies with a particular Japanese conceptual artist, Matsuzawa Yutaka (1922–2006); a performance and happenings group called The Play centred in the Kansai; and a... Full Review
March 3, 2017
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Laurinda S. Dixon
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2013. 264 pp.; 62 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271059365)
In a brief epilogue to The Dark Side of Genius: The Melancholic Persona in Art, ca. 1500–1700, Laurinda Dixon connects the “nerds” and “geeks” of today’s culture with the intellectual tradition that is her primary subject (190). From medieval ascetics to Renaissance stargazers, intellectuals of the past, like their modern counterparts, were often considered oddballs whose unconventional ideas were greeted as more deluded or dangerous than transformational. From ancient Greece to the... Full Review
March 2, 2017
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Philippe Geinoz
Histoire des idées et critique littéraire, Volume 480. Geneva: Librarie Droz, 2014. 559 pp.; 10 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Paper €47.40 (9782600017947)
As a literary genre, the thèse- or habilitation-turned-book will have few genuine enthusiasts. These texts are long and often not very lively. Among the examples I’ve encountered, Philippe Geinoz’s Relations au travail: Dialogue entre poésie et peinture à l’époque du cubism: Apollinaire-Picasso-Braque-Gris-Reverdy [Relations at work: Dialogue between poetry and painting in the cubist epoch--Apollinaire, Picasso, Braque, Gris, Reverdy] is among the very best. Indeed, if I... Full Review
March 2, 2017
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Derek Conrad Murray
London: I.B. Taurus, 2016. 256 pp.; 8 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (9781784532871)
Amid a litany of compelling critical-theory trajectories that have garnered attention over the last twenty or so years (Afrofuturism, Afro-Pessimism, etc.) and a wave of ideas about how blackness circulates as an object of theoretical inquiry as interiority, form, materiality, flesh, and most recently “liquidity,” no term is perhaps more contested (in both public and academic spheres) than the subject of Derek Conrad Murray’s new book—post-blackness. According to Murray, an art historian and... Full Review
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Erin J. Campbell
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 216 pp.; 16 color ills.; 17 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781472442130)
In De institutione feminae christianae (On the Education of Christian Women, 1524), Juan Luis Vives wrote of elderly women, “When a woman is free of all carnal desire and has fulfilled her duties of bearing and bringing up children, she will emanate an odor that is more heavenly than earthly, and shall say and do nothing but what is of great sanctity and may serve as an example to those younger than she. ‘Then her name will begin to be known,’ as Gorgias said, ‘when her face is... Full Review
February 23, 2017
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