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

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Laura Anne Kalba
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 288 pp.; 108 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Hardcover $84.95 (978-0-271-07700-0)
And then there was color. In short, this is the theme of Laura Kalba’s fascinating study, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, which chronicles the explosion of vivid (and often artificial) colors in everyday life in late nineteenth-century France. Explaining the science and technology behind the making of both new as well as more saturated traditional colors, the book traces the many experiential and epistemic shifts that attended consumers’ willing... Full Review
September 4, 2018
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John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier
New York: Liveright, 2015. 320 pp.; Many color ills.; Many  b/w ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9780871404688)
Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American has already received admiring reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, and New Republic among other media outlets. The 2015 book by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier is worth returning to here for what it offers specifically to artists and art historians. Pulling together extensive images of and writings... Full Review
August 31, 2018
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Jonathan J. G. Alexander
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 456 pp.; 100 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9780300203981)
Jonathan Alexander became aware of the lack of a survey in English of Italian Renaissance illumination while preparing the groundbreaking exhibition The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450–1550, held in London and New York in 1994–95 (exh. cat., 1994). He took up the challenge equipped not only with a profound knowledge of painting in Italian books, but also an extraordinary background in manuscript studies. He has published essential monographs and catalogues... Full Review
August 29, 2018
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Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley, eds.
Exh. cat. London: D.A.P./Tate, 2017. 256 pp. Hardcover $39.95 (9781942884170)
Tate Modern, London, July 12–October 22, 2017; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AZ, February 3–April 23, 2018; Brooklyn Museum, September 14–February 3, 2019; The Broad, Los Angeles, March 23–September 1, 2019
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power offers an expansive view of the depth and breadth of American art in the heady, dizzying years of black activism between 1963 and 1983. While the book accompanies the exhibition of the same name, it is less of an exhibition catalogue and more of a compendium of micro histories, essays, reflections, images, and memories of one of the most dynamic periods in the history of American art. A period when the politics of blackness drove a new... Full Review
August 28, 2018
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Cordula Grewe
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 74 color ills.; 14 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271064147)
Two art students get fed up with their teachers, hang together, and start making art on their own. They quit school, move to a hipper city, change hairstyles, and form an art commune. One of the duo dies young, the other marries, and their followers drift away, settle down, go commercial, and generally become the next generation’s object of loathing. The story would be banal were it not so early in the history of art. Founded in Vienna on July 10, 1809, by its “master” Friedrich Overbeck... Full Review
August 24, 2018
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Tina M. Campt
Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2017. 152 pp.; 30 color ills.; 136 ills. Paperback $22.95 (9780822362708)
In her slim and concise “‘throat-clearing gesture’—the kind that introduces any inquiry with a series of queries and propositions that create an analytical space for thinking” (3), Tina Campt provides the theoretical accoutrements and methodologies necessary to contemplate what black refusal and resistance might sound like if we were to listen to images in addition to seeing them. A cogent combination of black feminist inquiry and diasporic visual culture, Listening... Full Review
August 22, 2018
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Lindiwe Dovey
Framing Film Festivals. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 13 b/w ills. $95.00 (9781137404138)
The topic of film festivals seems poised to be an emerging field of study, and Curating Africa in the Age of Film Festivals is dedicated to the festivals of Africa and to African film festivals elsewhere in the world, subjects not often considered fit for a book-length monograph. The book is also a contribution to African studies in general and to film and media studies. Author Lindiwe Dovey lets us know that she traveled to a large number of film festivals over... Full Review
August 21, 2018
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Sarahh E. M. Scher and Billie J. A. Follensbee, eds.
Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2017. 520 pp.; 148 b/w ills. Hardcover $125.00 (9780813062211)
In recent decades, gender, and its role in the expression and construction of social identity and power, has emerged as an essential topic of inquiry in the study of ancient American cultures. Major breakthroughs have followed broader recognition that gender is fluid, historically contingent, and a focal point in the negotiation and contestation of power. Dressing the Part: Power, Dress, Gender, and Representation in the Pre-Columbian Americas contributes to this vital field by... Full Review
August 15, 2018
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Dalia Judovitz
New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. 25 color ills.; 4 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9780823277445)
Some of the most inspiring contributions to the study of early modern art have been made by scholars not trained as art historians and not institutionally working in that discipline. Marc Fumaroli and Leo Bersani, to name but two examples, could not be more different in mindset, intellectual context, or political perspective, but both are literary historians who formulated profound, groundbreaking insights on the art of, respectively, Guido Reni and Michelangelo Merisi, also known as... Full Review
August 14, 2018
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Omar W. Nasim
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 296 pp.; 85 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226084374)
Even readers unfamiliar with scholarship on the history of astronomy will quickly recognize Omar W. Nasim’s rich contributions to the field. Observing by Hands: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century convincingly articulates how pencil and paper paralleled the telescope as tools for astronomical observation. That astronomers’ routine paperwork has remained obscure to historians should come as no surprise. Private, unpublished notebooks often appear unintelligible, riddled... Full Review
August 13, 2018
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