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

Valerie Cassel Oliver
Exh. cat. Richmond, VA and Durham, NC: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in association with Duke University Press, 2021. 288 pp.; 140 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth (9781934351192)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, May 22–September 6, 2021; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, October 28, 2021–February 6, 2022; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, March 12–July 25, 2022; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, September 2022–February 2023
Throughout the summer of 2021, a white sedan with gold trim, a type affectionately known as a SLAB (acronym for “slow, loud, and banging”), was parked in the main atrium of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. The SLAB, a customized 1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance, designed by the New Orleans rapper Richard “Fiend” Jones and commissioned by the museum, joyfully and flamboyantly announced the long-anticipated opening of The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse. Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, The Dirty South brings together over 100 artists from the… Full Review
November 17, 2021
Kristen Seaman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 206 pp.; 8 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781108490917)
“Why did some notable examples of Hellenistic Art look so different from previous Greek art? And why did some key elements of Hellenistic art and literature appear so similar?” (xi). Kristin Seaman’s work is built and developed around these essential questions of differences across time and similarities between media. By recognizing the central role of rhetorical education in Greek society, the author emphasizes the close association between innovative visual production and textual culture in the Hellenistic courts. Within this context, the practice of progymnasmata held a distinctive position. The composition and delivery of orations appears to have been incorporated into… Full Review
November 10, 2021
Sarah Thomas
London and New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2019. 304 pp.; 168 ills. (9781913107055)
John Simpson’s The Captive Slave (1827, Art Institute of Chicago) graces the cover of Witnessing Slavery: Art and Travel in the Age of Abolition, a compelling book that examines eyewitness accounts of slavery largely produced by British artists during the seventy-year period between 1770 and 1840. Although a poignant and absorbing image, Simpson’s painting is one of the few works in the book that is not an eyewitness account, but instead a formal portrait of an anonymous slave said to have been modeled by Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage. This paradox… Full Review
November 4, 2021
Andrea Nelson, ed.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2020. 288 pp.; 8 color ills.; 269 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781942884743)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, July 2–October 3, 2021; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 31, 2021–January 30, 2022
In May 1914 Wilson’s Photographic Magazine devoted thirteen pages to a celebration of “how women have won fame in photography.” Apparently this triumph was short-lived, because, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, major museums have once again opened their galleries to photographs whose defining criterion for inclusion was the gender of their creators. Building on the ambitious Qui a peur des femmes photographes? 1839–1945 (Musée d’Orsay, 2015) and the Museum of Modern Art’s Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography (2010–11), the National Gallery’s The New Woman behind the Camera (first shown at the Metropolitan Museum… Full Review
November 2, 2021
Hanneke Grootenboer
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 240 pp.; 16 color ills.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780226717951)
Thinking is something we get to enjoy alone, and yet, as Hanneke Grootenboer shows in The Pensive Image: Art as a Form of Thinking, it is also collective. Grootenboer’s own thinking builds on foundations laid by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Gaston Bachelard, and Jacques Rancière, as well as by artists, from painters to filmmakers. More unruly and less policed than the discipline of philosophy proper, it belongs to that praxis we know as “theory.” For thinking along with art, Grootenboer demonstrates, discrete ideas, pensées, or Denkbilder, whose compactness already begins to… Full Review
October 20, 2021
Connie H. Choi, Thelma Golden, and Kellie Jones
Exh. cat. New York: Rizzoli Electa, 2019. 232 pp. Cloth $45.00 (9780847866380)
Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, January 16–April 14, 2019; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC, May 24–August 18, 2019; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI, September 13–December 8, 2019; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, January 17–April 12, 2020; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, January 23–April 10, 2021; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, May 22–August 15, 2021
Coming upon Kevin the Kiteman, Jordan Casteel’s big 2016 painting in the galleries of Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, viewers might have been reminded of how the pandemic has utterly transformed urban experience. The piece opened a section of Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem focused on work by former artists-in-residence, the signature studio program of the famed New York institution. As Frye Art Museum curator Amanda Donnan describes in the catalog, the work was the result of a serendipitous encounter between painter and subject. When observing the busy plaza across the street from her studio at… Full Review
October 13, 2021
J. P. Park, Burglind Jungmann, and Juhyung Rhi, eds.
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020. 568 pp. Ebook $156.00 (9781118927007)
Twenty years after Jane Portal’s introductory survey Korea: Art and Archaeology (Thames and Hudson, 2000), this long-awaited edited volume offers a chance to review the historiography of Korean art history and to see the astonishing developments the field has made over the past number of years. In general, the volume covers cross-cultural connections that deemphasize ahistorical national narratives and illustrate the increasing depth of research on modern and contemporary art. Leading scholars in Korean art provide insightful essays with a preference for historical and social contexts over stylistic analysis. Donald L. Baker’s introduction provides an excellent historical overview. It is… Full Review
October 6, 2021
Emily Hage
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021. 256 pp.; 10 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9781501342660)
Emily Hage’s well-written and lucidly argued book is a valuable contribution to the Dada scholarship. It is not the first study to emphasize the centrality of journals to the Dada movement—Dawn Ades’s pioneering exhibition catalog Dada and Surrealism Reviewed of 1978 did that, as did her Dada Reader, coedited with Hage in 2006. But whereas those volumes (along with the chapters devoted to Dada in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, vol. 3, 2013) function as surveys and as essential reference resources, Hage’s book offers something different. It provides an introduction, a cohesive narrative, and… Full Review
September 30, 2021
Joshua I. Cohen
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 83 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520309685)
I winced the first time I read the title of this book. The cause of my trepidation was the quotation marks that enshrined “Black Art.” As a Black queer woman artist who is invested in the representation of Otherness in visual art, the symbols were striking in their evocation because, for me, they immediately raised several questions related to authenticity, aesthetics, and identity. However, my reservations lessened as I read the introductory pages and recognized the exhaustive care and attention that the author devoted to understanding the role canonical African sculpture played in the rise of modernisms in the… Full Review
September 28, 2021
William O. Gardner
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 232 pp.; 16 color ills.; 4 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (9781517906245)
After a long delay, Japan hosted its second Tokyo Olympics this summer (without an audience, due to the pandemic). When the Olympics were postponed last summer, Netflix premiered a dystopian anime series directed by Yuasa Masaaki, Japan Sinks 2020, a contemporary adaptation of Komatsu Sakyō’s 1973 novel of the same title. The series begins with a massive earthquake destroying Tokyo, including the newly built Olympic stadium and young athletes within. Komatsu’s earlier novel Virus: The Day of Resurrection (Fukkatsu no hi), published in 1964—the year of the first Tokyo Olympics—has also been referenced for eerily predicting a… Full Review
September 23, 2021
Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, May 7–November 7, 2021
Up on a hill on San Francisco’s northwestern end, flanked by fluorescent green golf courts, stands the Legion of Honor, deep in perennial ocean fog. En français, the words Honneur et Patrie welcome tourists and the odd city resident to this neoclassical pavilion’s rigid symmetry, rhythmically marked by an Ionic colonnade. A larger-than-life-size man in bronze, Rodin’s Thinker, governs the courtyard. Caught in internal struggle, he famously cogitates on a pedestal. Installed throughout the museum’s permanent collection galleries is I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?, a solo exhibition of work by the acclaimed Kenyan American artist Wangechi Mutu… Full Review
September 21, 2021
Shawnya L. Harris, ed.
Exh. cat. Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2021. 192 pp. Cloth $40.00 (9780915977468)
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, January 30–April 25, 2021; Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY, June 19–September 12, 2021; Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 11, 2021–January 2, 2022
A week before Emma Amos: Color Odyssey was set to close and four days before Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd, I invited my sister and niece to accompany me to Emma Amos’s retrospective at the Georgia Museum of Art, the first of three sites for the traveling exhibition. As we made the hour drive from Atlanta to Athens, news reports of Black bodies being killed by police lingered in the car, like unwelcome chaperones. Along with the current backlash against teaching the systemic racism that is the warp thread of the United States, these events… Full Review
September 16, 2021
Michel Draguet
Brussels and New Haven, CT: Mercatorfonds in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 210 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300246506)
The work of Fernand Khnopff as one of Belgium’s foremost symbolist artists is increasingly attracting scholarly attention. It is no coincidence that in the past few years interesting exhibitions have been dedicated to Belgian symbolism and Fernand Khnopff, such as Dekadenz und Dunkle Träume: Der belgische Symbolismus at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2020–21) and Fernand Khnopff: Le maître de l’énigme (1858–1921) at the Petit Palais in Paris (2018–19). One of the directors of the latter exhibition was the Khnopff specialist Michel Draguet, author of several journal articles on Belgian art that are also of particular interest for Khnopff, as… Full Review
September 14, 2021
Aston Gonzalez
John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020. 324 pp.; 36 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781469659961)
In nineteenth-century America, images were powerful tools in the battle to confront slavery and racial oppression. Aston Gonzalez’s Visualizing Equality: African American Rights and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century explores how Black artists fashioned radical new imagery that engaged Americans in discussions concerning the politics of race and citizenship. Visualizing Equality focuses on Robert Douglass Jr., Patrick Henry Reason, Augustus Washington, and James Presley Ball, artist-activists who played a leading role in their respective communities, alongside William Wells Brown and Henry Box Brown, who brought real-life experiences of enslavement to their projects. Born free, Douglass, Reason, Washington, and Ball… Full Review
September 9, 2021
Mamadou Diouf and Maureen Murphy, eds.
Dijon, France: Les presses du réel, 2020. 256 pp.; 55 ills. Paper €24.00 (9782378960988)
Déborder la négritude, despite its compact format, is a trove of rigorous scholarship and a pleasure to read, with striking visual representations of Dakar and its artistic milieu. Edited by Mamadou Diouf and Maureen Murphy, the book offers a series of reflections on the intertwining of art and politics in relation to négritude and the enduring impact of President Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001). As a poet, philosopher, and statesman, Senghor made his mark in Senegal and abroad through his intellectual prowess and political agenda, two distinct legacies that became deeply intertwined over the course of his multifaceted career. In… Full Review
September 7, 2021