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

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Christina Normore
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 272 pp.; 4 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226242200)
Christina Normore’s first book gracefully crosses disciplines in its examination of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century art. A Feast for the Eyes: Art, Performance, and the Late Medieval Banquet encompasses performance, so-called “decorative” arts, book illumination, painting, and literature. Normore posits the feast as a major artistic form that has much to reveal about culture. Which culture, may one ask? The attractive book title does not reflect Normore’s real focus, which is the... Full Review
August 24, 2017
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Ömür Harmanşah
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 372 pp.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $37.99 (9781107533745)
Ömür Harmanşah
New York: Routledge, 2015. 200 pp.; 68 b/w ills. Cloth $148.00 ( 9780415744881)
With the recent publication of two thoughtful and provocative monographs in rapid succession, Ömür Harmanşah has emerged as one of the ancient Near East’s most theoretically aware and intellectually ambitious scholars of art history and archaeology. Tapping into a wealth of cultural criticism and social theory concerning space and place, Harmanşah weaves this literature into case studies drawn from the second and first millennium BCE in ancient Anatolia and surrounding regions. In his first... Full Review
August 18, 2017
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Katharina Sykora
Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2015. 517 pp.; 225 color ills. Cloth £ 58.00 (9783770549160)
We should “work the ‘mirror with a memory,’” the photographer Minor White once said about photographic practice, as if the camera were “a metamorphosing machine, and the photograph as if it were a metaphor” (Minor White, “The Light Sensitive Mirage,” 1958, in Vicki Goldberg, ed., Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981, 396). In the second volume of her wide-ranging study, The Deaths of Photography, whose title echoes that of... Full Review
August 17, 2017
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Elena Shtromberg
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 238 pp.; 32 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781477308585)
Irene V. Small
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 50 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226260167)
Irene V. Small’s Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame and Elena Shtromberg’s Art Systems: Brazil and the 1970s offer complementary perspectives on the postwar Brazilian avant-garde. At first, they have much in common, with key terms such as “art as social system,” “art as language,” “art as communication,” and “art and politics.” Both also propose a new social-art history, which posits the artwork as a gateway onto knowledge. Small’s innovative monograph presents Hélio... Full Review
August 16, 2017
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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Hilton Als, Amira Gad, and Glenn Ligon
Exh. cat. London and Wien: Serpentine Galleries and Koenig Books, 2015. 136 pp. Paper £ 8.00 (9781908617286)
Exhibition schedule: Serpentine Galleries, London, July 2–September 15, 2015
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dusk was released on the occasion of the British painter’s 2015 solo exhibition at Serpentine Gallery. The compendium features Yiadom-Boakye’s stunning painterly and writerly interrogations of fictional characters and black figures in her paintings, etchings, short stories, poems, and essays, along with texts by artist Glenn Ligon, critic Hilton Als, and the exhibition’s organizer, Amira Gad. Verses After Dusk asks readers and viewers to... Full Review
August 16, 2017
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Florence, Italy
The spectacular new Opera del Duomo Museum in Florence, Italy, which opened on the fall of 2015, is in a very real sense a twenty-first-century manifestation of two closely associated late eighteenth-century European cultural and intellectual accomplishments. The remarkable invention of the public museum is deeply connected to the development of art history as an independent academic discipline. Both are manifestations of the Enlightenment belief that the appreciation of art might shape moral... Full Review
August 10, 2017
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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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