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

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Jenni Sorkin
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 8 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226303116)
This excellent book by the feminist scholar, critic, and curator Jenni Sorkin exemplifies the value of incorporating craft and other forms of applied art more fully into the history of the avant-garde. Sorkin reveals the important role played by women ceramic artists of the 1950s and 1960s in shaping collective and performative experiences of art. Women ceramicists built alternative communities of practitioners while exploring issues of form and process, and Sorkin argues that their work... Full Review
December 4, 2017
Midori Yamamura
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 256 pp.; 4 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $30.95 (9780262029476)
A legendary artist with an extraordinary life story and a larger-than-life persona, Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) is a difficult subject for study, which leaves little room for diverse interpretation. Her account of mental illness and the fact that she has been living in a psychiatric hospital since the mid-1970s—upon returning to Tokyo after struggling in New York for recognition and success in the 1960s—have shaped not only public perception but also scholarly analysis of her artwork. When she... Full Review
December 1, 2017
Rosalind P. Blakesley
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 380 pp.; 135 color ills.; 155 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300184372)
Finally there exists a comprehensive study of Russian painting before the twentieth century: Rosalind Blakesley’s gloriously illustrated, exceptionally researched history of painting from the foundation of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1757 to the death of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. This is a book we may not have even known we were waiting for, but now that it is here, it may well change the field of art history. To say that “it fills a gap in existing literature” (2) is a gross... Full Review
December 1, 2017
Sue Ann Prince, ed.
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Museum, 2013. 267 pp. Paper (9780871692672)
American Philosophical Society Museum, Philadelphia, March 25–December 31, 2011.
Of Elephants and Roses: French Natural History, 1790–1830 offers an ambitious model for fostering interdisciplinary scholarly conversations between the history of science, the history of art, and cultural and literary history. An edited collection of papers that were delivered at a symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition at the American Philosophical Society in 2011 entitled Encounters with French Natural History, 1790–1830, the lavishly illustrated volume... Full Review
December 1, 2017
Arnold Dreyblatt and Angela Lammert, eds.
Exh. cat. Dortmund: Verlag Kettler, 2015. 312 pp.; 90 color ills.; 240 b/w ills. Cloth € 39.00 (9783862065158)
Exhibition schedule: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, November 11, 2015–January 1, 2016; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Mons, Belgium, March 11–June 12, 2016; Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany, September 11–February 2, 2016; Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland, March 3–June 2017
In their introduction to the exhibition catalogue Terry Fox: Elemental Gestures, editors Arnold Dreyblatt and Angela Lammert remark on the artist’s current position on the edge of art history. A vital force in the often overlooked San Francisco art scene of the late 1960s and 1970s, Terry Fox (1943–2008) appears to have found greater appreciation outside of the United States, particularly within mainland Europe. (It is perhaps telling that a retrospective of this scale was first... Full Review
November 30, 2017
Carol Tulloch
London: Bloomsbury, 2016. 272 pp.; 9 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Hardcover $23.99 (9781474262873)
With so much attention given to the music of the black diaspora in recent years, scholars of race have perhaps neglected other areas of popular culture, in particular fashion and style. But has fashion really been critical to the forging of racial and ethnic identity? Carol Tulloch seems to think so, hence her fascinating book brings together discussions of race, style, aesthetics, diasporic identities, and modernity.Black style has had a huge impact on twentieth-century fashion.... Full Review
November 30, 2017
Heidi Pauwels
Volume 4 of Studies in Asian art and culture | SAAC. Berlin: EB-Verlag, 2016. 301 pp. Hardcover € 45.00 (9783868931846)
It might be fair to judge Heidi Pauwels’s latest book on poetry and painting from the Rajput court of Kishangarh by its cover. A painting depicts eyes irrigating a garden of poetry with a river of tears. The verses, laid in rectangular text blocks inscribed in green calligraphy, narrate this image: the beloved Laylā is so dangerously beautiful that, upon seeing her, her lover cannot help but cry. One couplet reads, “A fountain springs from the eyes, a waterfall of pain. As long as the... Full Review
November 29, 2017
Cécile Fromont
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2014. 328 pp.; 37 color ills.; 89 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781469618715)
Cécile Fromont’s The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo presents a gripping narrative of hybridity, change, and global encounter as European Christianity, the Atlantic world, and the Kongo kingdom met at the start of the sixteenth century and continued to interact directly with each other into the nineteenth century. The topic of Kongo conversion has been heavily debated for decades, resulting in a dichotomous split on just how influential and... Full Review
November 28, 2017
Marisa Anne Bass
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 224 pp.; 40 color ills.; 57 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780691169996)
The 2010 exhibition Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance (Metropolitan Museum and National Gallery, London) (click here for review) brought renewed attention to a key Netherlandish artist. Whereas the exhibition sought a comprehensive view of Gossart’s varied output, Marisa Anne Bass’s eloquent new book, Jan Gossart and the Invention of Netherlandish Antiquity, focuses specifically on his... Full Review
November 27, 2017
John North Hopkins
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 268 pp.; 62 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300211818)
Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, was the maestro who remade Rome as a Carrara marble metropolis rivaling Athens and Alexandria and created a burgeoning empire of copycat cities. While his comprehensive conversion of the capital referenced Rome’s birth and the general trajectory of its first eight centuries, the dramatic transformation obscured some of the details of its storied past. A clearer picture of Rome’s pre-Augustan buildings and their striking significance is now beginning to... Full Review
November 22, 2017