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

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Sabine T. Kriebel
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. 352 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9780520276185)
Sabine Kriebel’s book Revolutionary Beauty: The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield is a study characterized by its exceptional rigor and intellectual intensity. Although written in a meticulously sculpted language, precise and full of imagery, this work does not claim to be a definitive, closed, or unequivocal object. Focusing on the monteur John Heartfield, a major artist who curiously has received little scholarly attention until now, Revolutionary Beauty does not... Full Review
September 8, 2017
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Charles Palermo
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015. 384 pp.; 16 color ills.; 17 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780520282469)
“Look at the Christs of Gauguin,” Émile Bernard once complained in an 1891 letter to Émile Schuffenecker, “they are human, they are of this world. Christ absolutely did not cry silly tears on beautiful, veiny hands. All that is Gauguin, which is to say self-worship, pure secularism, Renan.” For Bernard, an artist who had already returned to a devout Catholicism, a humanized image of Christ derived from the liberal theology of the day—Ernest Renan’s unmiraculous Vie de Jésus (1863)... Full Review
September 1, 2017
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Timothy Hyde
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 384 pp.; 11 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9780816678112)
The political efficacy of architecture and urban planning is brought to the fore in Timothy Hyde’s cogent analysis of architecture and constitutionalism in Republican-era Cuba (1933–59). Focused primarily on Havana, Hyde brilliantly accounts for the relationship between legal discourse and architectural production. Divided into three parts, the book claims a tripartite of trajectories: the textual, the graphic, and the physical. The first part of the book explores the creation of the 1940... Full Review
September 1, 2017
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Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. 273 pp.; 332 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780292719163)
Mexican plazas are the “public living rooms” of urban centers large and small, and they have been shaped by social intercourse for over four thousand years, sometimes rhythmically and slowly, sometimes violently and suddenly. These communal spaces still resonate with Pre-Columbian symbolism, as Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead demonstrate in Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza: From Primordial Sea to Public Space. Whereas the pioneering studies of colonial Spanish... Full Review
September 1, 2017
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Holly S. Hurlburt
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 360 pp.; 34 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780300209723)
Global Renaissance studies, which include the examination of contributions by elite women to early modern European culture and considerations of courtly culture and ritual, have been some of the more productive avenues of recent research in the field. Holly S. Hurlburt’s engaging Daughter of Venice: Caterina Corner, Queen of Cyprus and Woman of the Renaissance, a biographical study of Caterina Corner (1454?–1510), the Venetian-born Queen of Cyprus, engages with these themes. Hurlburt... Full Review
August 25, 2017
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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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Stephen Gilchrist, ed.
Exh. cat. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 2016. 228 pp.; 122 color ills.; 2 b/w ills. Cloth (9780300214703)
Exhibition schedule: Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, February 5–September 18, 2016
Near the entrance to Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia, a group of framed works on paper, all modestly scaled and dating from 1971–72, hang in a line. For some viewers, their distinctive disposition of spirals, striations, lines, networks, and circles will immediately call up traditions of Indigenous mark-making and design in Australia. The media used are less familiar, though. Here it is not a case of the materials most often identified with Indigenous... 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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