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

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Abigail McEwen and Susanna Temkin
New York: David Zwirner Books, 2016. 192 pp.; 138 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9781941701331)
David Zwirner Gallery, New York, January 7—February 20, 2016
To a degree unparalleled in many other subfields of art history, twentieth-century Latin America has come into focus through exhibitions and accompanying catalogues. Indeed, these exhibitions often presage scholarly immersion in—or even assembly of—a related archive. Witness the dominance of selected institutions in establishing the canon for study of modern and contemporary Latin American art in the anglophone world: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York; the Museum of... Full Review
January 9, 2018
Martina Bagnoli, ed.
Exh. cat. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 2017. 280 pp.; 241 color ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300222951)
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, October 16, 2016–January 8, 2017.
Reaching beyond sight has become a commonly stated aim of art history. For medievalists, interest in the connections between art and embodied sensation grows logically from the field’s long-standing and rich examination of vision and its particular attention to materiality. This legacy brings with it certain propensities—most notably a bias toward religious objects and the relationships they structure between bodily experience and the apprehension of God. The ambitious A Feast for the... Full Review
December 22, 2017
Elaine K. Gazda and John R. Clarke, eds.
Exh. cat. Kelsey Museum Publication (Book 14). Ann Arbor: Kelsey Museum Publications, 2016. 288 pp. Paperback $25.97 (9780990662341)
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, February 19–May 15, 2016; Museum of the Rockies at the Montana State University, June 18–December 31, 2016; Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, February 3–August 13, 2017
The raison d’être for the publication of Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii was the traveling exhibition of the same name organized by Elaine Gazda and John Clarke at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology of the University of Michigan, with additional venues at Montana State University and Smith College Museum of Art (where this reviewer saw the exhibition in February 2017). Without the exhibition, it is unlikely that a new and lavishly illustrated... Full Review
December 21, 2017
Mary Hunter
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016. 280 pp.; 60 b/w ills. Hardcover $33.95 (9780719097577)
Written from the perspective of visual culture studies, broadly speaking The Face of Medicine addresses “the entanglement of art, science, politics, and popular culture in the early Third Republic” (1). Knowledge of that political regime is assumed, and readers rusty on their French history may find themselves stymied. Of course such information is readily, and amply, available, whereas Mary Hunter’s examination of medical masculinities in late nineteenth-century Paris is unique,... Full Review
December 20, 2017
Sascha T. Scott
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 58 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806144849)
During the heyday of the Taos/Santa Fe School, which lasted from about 1915 to the mid-1930s, support came from two different kinds of patrons: those intrigued by an exotic and remote Indian civilization in the far Southwest, which somehow doubled as an early America; and those who looked on the same group of Indians as descendants of the ancient Anasazi tribes, with cultural attributes that merited preservation. Distinguishing between the two groups has never been easy; some patrons... Full Review
December 19, 2017
Brian A. Brown and Marian H. Feldman, eds.
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. 812 pp. Hardcover $149.99 (9781614510291)
Brian A. Brown and Marian H. Feldman’s volume, Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art, is first an outstanding reflection, and stands at the leading edge, of ancient Near Eastern art history. Perfectly poised within current scholarship in the larger discipline of art history, the essays touch upon trends of interdisciplinarity, post-processual theory, materiality, and thing-theory, to name just a few. As the larger field of art history is beginning to embrace the turn to... Full Review
December 18, 2017
Denise Y. Arnold and Elvira Espejo
New York: Thames & Hudson, 2015. 352 pp.; 450+ color ills. Hardcover $95.00 (9780500517925)
The Andean Science of Weaving: Structures and Techniques of Warp-Faced Weaves is a monumental volume that contributes an important perspective to the study of Andean textiles: “a world view perceived from a weaver’s ‘fingertips’” (18). This tremendous undertaking by authors Denise Y. Arnold and Elvira Espejo represents years of research and fieldwork experience, as well as extensive and creative thought not only about the way in which weavers of the Andean highlands construct... Full Review
December 15, 2017
Susan Best
New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 232 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Hardback $26.99 (9781472529787)
What art can do in relation to historical trauma has been discussed most thoroughly through the Holocaust. After (the misreading of) Adorno’s famous dictum on the impossibility of using art to work through a trauma of such scale, art has, from the distance of several decades, more or less successfully returned to the question. Claude Lanzmann’s filmic monument to the catastrophe, Shoah (1985), can stand as an emblem for this aesthetic return. It leveraged a monumental time frame... Full Review
December 14, 2017
Gerardo Boto Varela and Justin E. A. Kroesen, eds.
Architectura Medii Aevi. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2016. 332 pp.; 36 color ills.; 76 b/w ills. $100.49 (9782503552507)
Traditionally a Romanesque cathedral (ca. 1000–1200 CE) is distinguished from other Romanesque churches because it includes one extra piece of furniture: the cathedra, or bishop’s throne. Since today no single cathedral built between the fourth and the twelfth centuries is preserved in its original shape, it is perhaps difficult to refine this definition of Romanesque cathedrals. Even if the exterior shell of the Romanesque cathedral remains intact, very little is known about... Full Review
December 13, 2017
Bruce Redford
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 224 pp.; 120 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300219302)
Scholarly interest in the enigmatically alluring art of Sargent, galvanized by the 1998–9 retrospective and numerous exhibitions since, is still thriving. In the most recent monograph on the artist, John Singer Sargent and the Art of Allusion, Bruce Redford contends that “no portrait painter in the Anglo-American tradition is more consistently and inventively allusive than Sargent” (15). Redford suggests that Sargent’s sustained childhood exposure to the old masters, his... Full Review
December 13, 2017