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

Reviews in caa.reviews are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Andreas Beyer et al
Exh. cat. Basel: Foundation Beyeler, 2021. 400 pp.; 300 color ills. Cloth CHF72.00 (9783775746571)
In the latter part of 2021, the Beyeler Foundation in Basel mounted the most important retrospective exhibition on Goya in recent decades. Curated by Martin Schwander—who is also the editor of the catalog—and developed by Isabela Mora and Sam Keller in collaboration with the Prado Museum, it gathered 181 Goya works, including seventy-seven paintings, fifty-three prints, and fifty-one drawings. It was a unique opportunity for those able to attend the fully booked exhibition, since many of the works have rarely been shown outside of Spain, and many come from private collections. This is the first retrospective exhibition of Goya’s work… Full Review
June 24, 2022
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Kristoffer Neville
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019. 256 pp.; 15 color ills.; 65 b/w ills.; 82 ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271082257)
In the opening pages of his recent survey of early modern Scandinavian art and architecture, Kristoffer Neville argues that “the Danish and Swedish courts were fully integrated in Central European culture and played leading roles in the larger region from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century” (6). Rather than emphasize the uniqueness of Scandinavian artistic production in this period, Neville’s project is to excavate an often overlooked unity between closely related territories that have undergone an artificial separation in the writing of German, Danish, and Swedish national art histories. By revealing the impact of the Scandinavian monarchies in the German-speaking… Full Review
June 21, 2022
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April 9, 2022–July 17, 2022, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA
One might expect an exhibition focused on ten years of an artist’s practice to present a narrow slice of work, a partial—unsatisfying, even—picture of a lifelong creative evolution. Such a focus may seem best presented in book form. Yet Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (co-organized by the Menil Collection in Houston) exemplifies how a focused art historical examination of a particular portion of an artist’s career can make a successful exhibition. Saint Phalle is perhaps an especially noteworthy subject for such a presentation—over the course of a decade, changes in… Full Review
June 17, 2022
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Mark McDonald
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021. 320 pp.; 166 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781588397140)
There can be a tendency to portray Francisco Goya—frequently celebrated as the last of the old masters and the first of the moderns—as an artist existing outside of time. Goya’s Graphic Imagination firmly situates Goya in his artistic and cultural milieu while simultaneously teaching us to look closely and marvel anew at the boundless imagination and technical prowess of his graphic production. The catalog’s associated exhibition (which this author did not see) drew from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s remarkable holdings of Goya’s graphic work with supplemental loans from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, New… Full Review
June 15, 2022
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Craig Staff
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021. 200 pp.; 20 color ills. Cloth $49.00 (9781789382884)
Painting, History and Meaning is an ambitious book that seeks to redress conventional understandings of temporality within the study of contemporary painting. Craig Staff takes his “interpretative framework” (4) from the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s notion that painting occupies several “sites of time” simultaneously. Staff seeks neither to replicate the arbitrary attitude to temporality apparent in some works of postmodern eclecticism nor to reduce painting to the linear history of progress inherent in modernism and modernist criticism. His approach is rather to construct an alternative that opens up the differences in time inherent in the object that is the painting. Drawing… Full Review
June 9, 2022
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Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss
Getty Research Institute, 2021. 256 pp.; 80 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. Paper $60.00 (9781606067307)
Contrary to the legal maxim that there were no enslaved people in France, during the reign of Louis XIV acts of enslavement were visualized in an array of artistic media. For instance, Charles Le Brun’s design for the sculptural ornamentation of the stern of the flagship Royal Louis (ca. 1680) features a gilded bas-relief of the king in the guise of a Roman conqueror, flanked by two manacled figures whose characteristic topknot and turban respectively identify them as Turcs; beyond allegory, this image invokes a real practice of enslavement. Art historian Meredith Martin and historian Gillian Weiss confront the… Full Review
May 31, 2022
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Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022. 200 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $27.40 (9780226802060)
Much of the literature engaging the repatriation of museum collections has focused on claims made by postcolonial nation-states, or by Indigenous communities in settler-colonial contexts such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Latin America, specifically, has been relatively absent from these debates because of the enduring legacies of Indigenism as a key politics of nation making, justifying the appropriation of Indigenous cultural production in favor of the nation. The very few instances of repatriation in the region have been negotiated between specific museums and private collectors, who have returned objects to countries of origin, rather than through… Full Review
May 26, 2022
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Natalia Majluf
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2021. 288 pp. Cloth $50.00 (9781477324080)
In recent decades scholars of Latin American cultures have extensively examined the complexities of nation building from multiple disciplinary viewpoints. Natalia Majluf’s Inventing Indigenism: Francisco Laso’s Image of Modern Peru expands this discussion, focusing on Peru as an emerging nation tangled within the development of Indigeneity. She establishes a core premise of the book with the opening statement: “Throughout this book the term Indian refers fundamentally to the object of indigenist discourse, an abstraction that must be distinguished from the indigenous populations that the term purportedly designates” (n.p.). Subsequent pages present a broad range of information and theoretical perspectives on… Full Review
May 24, 2022
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Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2021. 352 pp.; 435 ills. Cloth (9781633451070)
November 21, 2021–March 12, 2022
Kunstmuseum Basel, March 20–June 20, 2021; Tate Modern, London, July 15–October 17, 2021; Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 21, 2021–March 12, 2022
Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction was an exhilarating and expansive exhibition (and accompanying catalog) of the artist’s uniquely syncretic practice. Organized by Anne Umland (Museum of Modern Art), Walburga Krupp (independent curator), Eva Reifert (Kunstmuseum Basel), and Natalia Sidlina (Tate Modern), the project covers Taeuber-Arp’s nearly thirty-year career between World War I and World War II. As installed at MoMA, the exhibition was a knockout. It offered a thrilling vision of the artist’s work at every stage of her career—a presentation strikingly emancipated from hierarchies of patriarchy and media. The most surprising decision was the almost total exclusion of works by… Full Review
May 19, 2022
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Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, June 25, 2021–March 6, 2022
In the fractured social landscape of the United States, as we move into 2022, questions of identity haunt us. Identity politics, individual choice, the boundaries of the body and the state are all contested and unstable. This terrain of instability, which can feel like a collapse of the aesthetic projects of both modernism and postmodernism, is an opportune moment for investigating the continued significance of portraiture. Left Side Right Side, at Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, adroitly gathered works in a variety of media that address and contest the meaning and use of the portrait in the twentieth and… Full Review
May 17, 2022
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Paul Martineau
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2020. 256 pp.; 199 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781606066751)
The spare beauty and formal patterning of succulents and magnolia blossoms are hallmarks of Imogen Cunningham’s most celebrated photographs. But most fascinating in Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective, recently on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), was the combination of clever form and psychological intensity in her portraits and nudes. Cunningham’s high-contrast close-up of Martha Graham from 1931 highlights the inward focus of the dancer’s mind as equal in importance to the expressive physical gestures she performs. The striking image of Graham, eyes closed with a neutral expression, conveys intense concentration in the act of translating emotion into… Full Review
May 9, 2022
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Lauren Fournier
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 48 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780262045568)
The term “autotheory” first caught my eye in late 2019, if I am remembering pre-pandemic time correctly. I had just finished Heather Christle’s lyrical The Crying Book (Catapult, 2019) during a particularly rough and emotional period in my life, when I often found myself weeping or full-on crying in the kitchen, what Christle named “the best—I mean the saddest—room for tears.” At the time, I was a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, simultaneously working through personal loss while generating new words around Hannah Wilke’s performance art from the 1970s. Working on Wilke necessitates recognition of the deep… Full Review
May 6, 2022
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Lawrence Waldron
Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016. 312 pp. Cloth $125.00 (9781683400011)
Lawrence Waldron
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2019. 448 pp. Cloth $125.00 (9781683400547)
In one of the first descriptions of Indigenous arts of the Americas, in the late fifteenth century, Fray Ramón Pané recognized that sculptures in what is now Hispaniola were not like those he knew in Europe. Inspired by environmental forces of deities and ancestors—known to the Taínos as zemís (or cemís)—rulers and sculptors collaborated to embody specific identities in three-dimensional forms that were then activated in ceremonies to become vital, oracular agents in their communities. Their extraordinary, volumetric forms and complex imagery confounded Pané, especially the faces of the zemí beings. They were grimacing as if… Full Review
May 4, 2022
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Imogen Hart and Claire Jones, eds.
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020. 320 pp.; 103 b/w ills. Cloth $130.00 (9781501341267)
Diana Davis, Oliver Fairclough, and John Whitehead, eds.
"Ceramics as Sculpture," Special Issue, vol.3. London: French Porcelain Society, 2020. 280 pp.; 153 color ills.; 43 b/w ills. Paper £20.00 (14798042)
Why talk about sculpture and the decorative arts together? A number of scholars, such as Penelope Curtis, Martina Droth, and Claire Jones (the latter coedited both the volumes reviewed here), as well as the exhibitions Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts (Henry Moore Institute and J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008–09) and Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention, 1837–1901 (Victoria & Albert Museum and Yale Center for British Art, 2014–15), have convincingly made the case for doing so. The fact that this approach still feels novel more than a decade after the question was first put forward… Full Review
May 3, 2022
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Rebecca Zorach
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019. 416 pp.; 124 color ills.; 1 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781478001409)
In the final passages of Art for People’s Sake, Rebecca Zorach offers a remarkable reading of a photograph of a young man using shaving cream to write “Black Power” at the intersection of Homan and Madison on Chicago’s West Side. The photograph, taken by journalist Kenneth Lovette, was published in the Chicago Sun-Times to document the rioting that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968. For Zorach, however, it also documents an event in the history of African American art. “With brilliant creativity,” Zorach writes, the young man “captions the entire experience of the riots, making… Full Review
May 2, 2022
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