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

Reviews in 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

Nathaniel Silver
Exh. cat. Boston and New Haven, CT: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 256 pp.; 115 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300249866)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, February 13–October 12, 2020
(Click here to view the online gallery guide.) I remember the first time I saw John Singer Sargent’s Thomas McKeller (ca. 1917–20) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (acquired in 1986), while gathering comparative material for my research on James Richmond Barthé (1901–1989), whose oeuvre is dominated by Black male nudes. The painting and accompanying sketches are the only known true-life depictions of McKeller, and, like in Sargent’s Madame X (1884), the model looked away from the artist, obscuring what could have been a factual portrait. Although for different reasons, both portraits remained in Sargent’s possession (and thus unknown… Full Review
March 23, 2021
Finbarr Barry Flood, ed.
Munich: Hirmer, 2019. 488 pp.; 224 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9783777432434)
There Where You Are Not: Selected Writings of Kamal Boullata brings together an impressive collection of texts by Palestinian artist, critic, theorist, poet, and writer Kamal Boullata (1942–2019). Born in Jerusalem, Boullata was first trained by icon painter Khalil Halabi before graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. Though Boullata is known in the international art scene for his colorful, geometric abstract paintings and silkscreens inspired by Arab calligraphy and traditional Palestinian textiles, his many other facets, such as his theoretical legacy and broad scholarly interests, are revealed in… Full Review
March 18, 2021
Anne Monahan
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 264 pp.; 96 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300243307)
Conceptions of race have limited the trajectory of American art history since its inception in the early nineteenth century. Anne Monahan reckons with this condition in Horace Pippin, American Modern, building her arguments alongside a systematic dismantling of the scaffolding of racist ideology that has supported many misunderstandings of the painter Horace Pippin (1888–1946). Her groundbreaking book helps to deracinate a powerful “art-historical caste system” that has consistently mistreated autodidacts, particularly those of color (2). Horace Pippin shines in the midst of an overdue racial reckoning in the United States, to which it makes a substantial scholarly contribution. Pivotal… Full Review
March 16, 2021
Natilee Harren
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 12 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780226354927)
“We had thought, too, about the tireless activity of the Fluxus group—but how could we have shown an infinite overproduction without instantly betraying and limiting it?” Such is Yve-Alain Bois’s explanation for excluding Fluxus from Formless, the exhibition and “user’s guide” he coorganized and cowrote with Rosalind E. Krauss (Zone Books, 1997, 24). Taking inspiration from Georges Bataille’s short, evocative dictionary entry on l’informe in the Surrealist journal Documents, the duo set out to “redeal modernism’s cards” (Bois and Krauss, 21). L’informe, they explained, denoted a leveling operation that could corrupt Clement Greenberg’s formalism without succumbing to… Full Review
March 11, 2021
Pauline Rose
Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2020. 336 pp.; 20 color ills.; 101 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (9781789621563)
Working against the Grain: Women Sculptors in Britain c.1885–1950 comes at a timely moment in British art and sculpture studies. In addition to Arts Council Collection’s forthcoming touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945, the Royal Society of Sculptors is exploring the histories and practices of its women members through the research project “Pioneering Women.” Pauline Rose’s monograph was itself prompted by the 2011 online sculpture database Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, the first in-depth study of sculptors and those in related trades active in Britain during the… Full Review
March 9, 2021
Trevor Stark
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020. 440 pp.; 10 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780262043717)
At the opening of Trevor Stark’s new book is a faded photograph by Paul Nadar of the poet Stéphane Mallarmé in 1895. Seated at a writing desk, with a shawl around his shoulders, he meets our gaze with an inscrutable expression. His pen is laden with ink from the bottle before him, but it hovers in the writer’s hand somewhere above the empty white page. It is an apt image to lead us into Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language after Mallarmé, a rich and absorbing exploration of the stakes for radical art and language in… Full Review
March 4, 2021
Izumi Nakajima
Tokyo: Brücke, 2019. 362 pp.; 152 b/w ills. Cloth ¥3800.00 (9784434264696)
In this groundbreaking book, Izumi Nakajima defines “anti-action” as Japanese women artists’ counterapproach to “action” painting by male artists, emphasizing their creation in the 1950s and 1960s. The volume is not just about how gender shaped women’s artistic practice in the period, however; as indicated by its subtitle, another subject is postwar Japanese art itself. Nakajima aims to reinterpret the field as a whole by examining how gender colored contemporaneous art criticism and the subsequent narrative on the subject (by targeting discursive practices in Japan). This book is an ambitious undertaking—practically the first of its kind—as there have been few… Full Review
March 2, 2021
Gregory Zinman
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 392 pp.; 100 color ills. Paper $45.00 (9780520302730)
Halfway through Making Images Move: Handmade Cinema and the Other Arts, Gregory Zinman offers an engaging discussion of Thomas Wilfred’s Clavilux, a visual apparatus that premiered on January 10, 1922, at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse. The Clavilux projected abstract compositions of colored light through a keyboard that controlled an ingenious mechanical ballet of color filters and lenses. This sculpting of light signaled the beginning of what Wilfred described as the “eighth art of electric light.” Following a rhetoric of mediatic obsolescence, Wilfred argued that what he termed Lumia, a strictly visual and silent art form, had superseded… Full Review
February 25, 2021
Megan Brandow-Faller
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 27 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271085043)
In 1910, Vienna’s recently founded Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs opened its inaugural exhibition, aptly titled Die Kunst der Frau (The art of women; November 5, 1910–January 8, 1911). Erica Tietze-Conrat (1883–1958), Austria’s first woman with a PhD in art history, observed that this showcase of women’s art across the ages failed to advance contemporary women’s cause because it created a separate category of “feminine art” (weibliche Kunst) that was still measured against “masculine art” (männliche Kunst; “Die Kunst der Frau,” Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 46, no. 22, 1911: 146). To a certain extent, this conundrum lies… Full Review
February 23, 2021
Peter Eisenman and Elisa Iturbe
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020. 120 pp.; 39 b/w ills. $26.95 (9780691147222)
Reading Lateness, Peter Eisenman’s new book with Elisa Iturbe, causes a cascade of ideas from Eisenman’s fifty years of production to come to the surface. They arrive, in effect, late—in stages, de-sorted—and as Lateness suggests, “apart from time.” It is difficult to view the book in isolation, yet there is a very new quality to the work. The tangential aspect to time—lateness—is in itself novel in Eisenman’s work. It portends an eventual, delayed rather than negated reconciliation with the times. Not with a would-be zeitgeist, but still far from the resistance often attributed to earlier work by Eisenman. … Full Review
February 18, 2021
Michelle C. Wang
Sinica Leidensia 139. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2018. 336 pp.; 130 ills. Cloth $147.00 (9789004357655)
This book tracks the visual traces of a dialogue as conceived between two ethnicities—Han Chinese and Tibetan—and two modes of Buddhist Mahāyāna thought and practice, exoteric (such as Huayan) and Esoteric Buddhism, both operating in the Dunhuang region of eastern Central Asia (now in Gansu Province, China) in the eighth to tenth century. A series of “cultural negotiations” plays out in complex programs of murals on cave walls and ceilings through the incorporation of motifs associated with Esoteric Buddhism into a matrix that is, according to the author, focused on repentance rituals and reverence for bodhisattvas. The book presents an… Full Review
February 16, 2021
Koffler.Digital, Koffler Centre of the Arts, Toronto, 2019–ongoing
(Click here to view the online exhibition.) Under the direction of Letticia Cosbert Miller, There Are Times and Places appears on Koffler.Digital, the web platform of Toronto’s Koffler Centre of the Arts. Launched in 2019, the show is ideal for the homebound circumstances of 2021. It features original projects by Wuulhu, Mani Mazinani, Coco Guzmán, and collaborators asinnajaq and Dayna Danger, all designed to be rendered on a web browser. This strategy hearkens back to the early days of net art, but it has received renewed attention as the conditions of the pandemic highlight the importance of exhibitions that directly… Full Review
February 11, 2021
Chiara Franceschini, Steven F. Ostrow, and Patrizia Tosini, eds.
Milan: Officina Libraria, 2020. 272 pp.; 120 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Paper €45.00 (9788899765934)
The goal of this well-rounded edited collection is to bring new scholarship on Rome’s remarkable early modern chapels to a “wider public” (5), in line with the mission of the Fondo Edifici di Culto (FEC) of the Ministry of the Interior of Italy. Happily, FEC sponsorship allowed for new high-quality photographs to produce a richly illustrated book. The volume comprises an introduction and nine essays in English by Italian and American scholars. Each essay carefully lays out the scholarly apparatus of construction dates, vicissitudes of patronage, and issues of attribution. Most of the essays offer previously unpublished archival… Full Review
February 9, 2021
Emily Engel
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020. 184 pp.; 24 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781477320594)
In January 1823, a month before he was named the first president of the Republic of Peru, José de la Riva Agüero asked the city council of Lima to remove the portrait of Viceroy José Fernando de Abascal y Sousa (r. 1806–16) from their chambers and contribute it to a nascent national collection of portraits. The councilors, however, could not comply with the request. The Lima-based artist Mariano Carrillo had painted his portrait of José de San Martín, the general who had declared Peru’s independence in 1821, over the image of Viceroy Abascal. As Emily Engel shows, however, not all… Full Review
February 4, 2021
Margaret C. Adler, Jennifer R. Henneman, Diana Jocelyn Greenwold, and Claire M. Barry
Exh. cat. Denver and New Haven, CT: Denver Art Museum in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 224 pp.; 179 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300246100)
Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Fredric Remington, Denver Art Museum, June 26–September 7, 2020; (as Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington) Portland Museum of Art, Maine, September 25–November 29, 2020; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, December 22, 2020–February 28, 2021
Drawing on sixty artworks, Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington, presented by the Denver Art Museum (DAM), sought to explore the artists’ visual responses to an era that was simultaneously rife with war, displacement and genocide of Indigenous peoples, racial inequities, and economic downturns while also hopeful for the possibilities of a prosperous future. The exhibit was co-organized by a team of four curators, including the Denver Art Museum’s Thomas Brent Smith, curator and director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, and Jennifer R. Henneman, associate curator of Western American art; Diana Greenwold, curator… Full Review
February 2, 2021