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

Mazie M. Harris
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. 224 pp.; 187 color ills.; 20 b/w ills.; 207 ills. Cloth $49.95 (9781606065495)
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, February 27–May 27, 2018
Paper Promises: Early American Photography, curated by Mazie M. Harris, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, offered fascinating insight into the little-known history of early paper photography in the United States. Although the processes for producing metal daguerreotypes and paper photographs were introduced simultaneously in America, negative-positive paper photography was slow to catch on, despite the ostensible benefits of its reproducibility. Harris accounts for this fact in the financial history of the antebellum period arguing that the medium’s feared potential to create counterfeit currency stymied its adoption in the United States. After Andrew Jackson dismantled the… Full Review
September 5, 2018
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Laura Anne Kalba
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 288 pp.; 108 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Hardcover $84.95 (978-0-271-07700-0)
And then there was color. In short, this is the theme of Laura Kalba’s fascinating study, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, which chronicles the explosion of vivid (and often artificial) colors in everyday life in late nineteenth-century France. Explaining the science and technology behind the making of both new as well as more saturated traditional colors, the book traces the many experiential and epistemic shifts that attended consumers’ willing acceptance of a more colorful environment. In the process, the book shows that our modern assumptions surrounding color—including its vibrancy and ubiquity in daily life—owe… Full Review
September 4, 2018
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John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier
New York: Liveright, 2015. 320 pp.; Many color ills.; Many  b/w ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9780871404688)
Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American has already received admiring reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, and New Republic among other media outlets. The 2015 book by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier is worth returning to here for what it offers specifically to artists and art historians. Pulling together extensive images of and writings by Frederick Douglass, many never before published, Picturing Frederick Douglass is a treasure trove for several fields, including photography history and practice, art histories of the African diaspora, and histories of American… Full Review
August 31, 2018
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Jonathan J. G. Alexander
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 456 pp.; 100 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9780300203981)
Jonathan Alexander became aware of the lack of a survey in English of Italian Renaissance illumination while preparing the groundbreaking exhibition The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450–1550, held in London and New York in 1994–95 (exh. cat., 1994). He took up the challenge equipped not only with a profound knowledge of painting in Italian books, but also an extraordinary background in manuscript studies. He has published essential monographs and catalogues on art and manuscripts of the ninth through sixteenth centuries from many areas of Europe and brings to this survey his experience in addressing a myriad critical issues… Full Review
August 29, 2018
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Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley, eds.
Exh. cat. London: D.A.P./Tate, 2017. 256 pp. Hardcover $39.95 (9781942884170)
Tate Modern, London, July 12–October 22, 2017; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AZ, February 3–April 23, 2018; Brooklyn Museum, September 14–February 3, 2019; The Broad, Los Angeles, March 23–September 1, 2019
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power offers an expansive view of the depth and breadth of American art in the heady, dizzying years of black activism between 1963 and 1983. While the book accompanies the exhibition of the same name, it is less of an exhibition catalogue and more of a compendium of micro histories, essays, reflections, images, and memories of one of the most dynamic periods in the history of American art. A period when the politics of blackness drove a new generation of artists and spawned a flourish of creative advances, artistic alliances… Full Review
August 28, 2018
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J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, January 30–April 8, 2018
Based on manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection, the one-room exhibition presented a well-defined overview of medieval ideas and depictions of prejudice and persecution. Even though the title of the exhibition contained the phrase “medieval world,” this was effectively the present-day world of Christians in western and central Europe in the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. This misnomer in the title does not distract from the nuanced treatment of the exhibition’s illuminated manuscripts, each with carefully chosen examples of themes such as (per the exhibition website Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World): ableism and classism… Full Review
August 27, 2018
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Cordula Grewe
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 74 color ills.; 14 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271064147)
Two art students get fed up with their teachers, hang together, and start making art on their own. They quit school, move to a hipper city, change hairstyles, and form an art commune. One of the duo dies young, the other marries, and their followers drift away, settle down, go commercial, and generally become the next generation’s object of loathing. The story would be banal were it not so early in the history of art. Founded in Vienna on July 10, 1809, by its “master” Friedrich Overbeck and “priest” Franz Pforr, the Brotherhood of St. Luke—nicknamed the Nazarenes because of… Full Review
August 24, 2018
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Sarah Greenough and Sarah Kennel
Exh. cat. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2018. 320 pp.; 230 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9781419729034 )
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, March 4–May 28, 2018; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, June 30–September 23, 2018; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, November 20, 2018–February 10, 2019; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 3–May 27, 2019; Jeu de Paume, Paris, June 17–September 22, 2019; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, October 19, 2019–January 12, 2020
“Nature is a Haunted House—but Art—a House that tries to be haunted,” Emily Dickinson writes in a letter to her confidant Thomas Wentworth Higginson. It is a laconic thought: clear as a bell in its expression, troubled as a knot in its concept. Who does the haunting? For some—Dickinson would surely count herself among them—nature bears the touch of its creation and is haunted by the leftover presence of the spirit that created it. But it is also part of Dickinson’s thought that we haunt nature; we pass through it, as insubstantial to it as it is implacable to us… Full Review
August 23, 2018
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Tina M. Campt
Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2017. 152 pp.; 30 color ills.; 136 ills. Paperback $22.95 (9780822362708)
In her slim and concise “‘throat-clearing gesture’—the kind that introduces any inquiry with a series of queries and propositions that create an analytical space for thinking” (3), Tina Campt provides the theoretical accoutrements and methodologies necessary to contemplate what black refusal and resistance might sound like if we were to listen to images in addition to seeing them. A cogent combination of black feminist inquiry and diasporic visual culture, Listening to Images “reclaim[s] the photographic archives of precarious and dispossessed black subjects in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries by attending to the quiet but resonant frequencies of images that… Full Review
August 22, 2018
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Lindiwe Dovey
Framing Film Festivals. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 13 b/w ills. $95.00 (9781137404138)
The topic of film festivals seems poised to be an emerging field of study, and Curating Africa in the Age of Film Festivals is dedicated to the festivals of Africa and to African film festivals elsewhere in the world, subjects not often considered fit for a book-length monograph. The book is also a contribution to African studies in general and to film and media studies. Author Lindiwe Dovey lets us know that she traveled to a large number of film festivals over the past twenty years, conducted interviews during these events with their organizers and filmmakers, and even engaged in… Full Review
August 21, 2018
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Matthew H. Robb, ed.
Exh. cat. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. 444 pp.; 350 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780520296558)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: de Young, September 30, 2017–February 11, 2018; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 25–September 3, 2018; Phoenix Art Museum, October 6, 2018–January 27, 2019
The publication of Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire and its accompanying exhibitions offers an extraordinarily comprehensive examination of one of the largest preindustrial cities in the world, its principal occupation lasting from 150 BCE to around 600 CE. Just as the ancient Mexican city drew people and resources from throughout Mesoamerica, the authors in the catalogue come from diverse nationalities and disciplines, and their essays synthesize explorations of Teotihuacan from the Aztecs to ongoing archaeological investigations. Those new to the wonders of this city as well as seasoned scholars of Teotihuacan will benefit from the text’s wide-ranging perspectives… Full Review
August 20, 2018
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Sarahh E. M. Scher and Billie J. A. Follensbee, eds.
Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2017. 520 pp.; 148 b/w ills. Hardcover $125.00 (9780813062211)
In recent decades, gender, and its role in the expression and construction of social identity and power, has emerged as an essential topic of inquiry in the study of ancient American cultures. Major breakthroughs have followed broader recognition that gender is fluid, historically contingent, and a focal point in the negotiation and contestation of power. Dressing the Part: Power, Dress, Gender, and Representation in the Pre-Columbian Americas contributes to this vital field by presenting a series of case studies that explore the ways in which the human body is concealed, revealed, adorned, and enhanced through costume to express, co-opt, or… Full Review
August 15, 2018
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Dalia Judovitz
New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. 25 color ills.; 4 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9780823277445)
Some of the most inspiring contributions to the study of early modern art have been made by scholars not trained as art historians and not institutionally working in that discipline. Marc Fumaroli and Leo Bersani, to name but two examples, could not be more different in mindset, intellectual context, or political perspective, but both are literary historians who formulated profound, groundbreaking insights on the art of, respectively, Guido Reni and Michelangelo Merisi, also known as Caravaggio. Turf wars, and claims that one has to be an art historian in order to meaningfully talk about the visual arts, are, needless to… Full Review
August 14, 2018
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Omar W. Nasim
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 296 pp.; 85 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226084374)
Even readers unfamiliar with scholarship on the history of astronomy will quickly recognize Omar W. Nasim’s rich contributions to the field. Observing by Hands: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century convincingly articulates how pencil and paper paralleled the telescope as tools for astronomical observation. That astronomers’ routine paperwork has remained obscure to historians should come as no surprise. Private, unpublished notebooks often appear unintelligible, riddled with seemingly idiosyncratic information. Nasim masterfully proves this to be a misconception. The seemingly most monotonous behaviors necessitated by observational programs can yield, as Nasim shows, important information about conceptions of knowledge production and… Full Review
August 13, 2018
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Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester, eds.
Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. 456 pp.; 49 ills. Paperback $29.95 (9780822369417)
In Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art, 1995–2010, editors Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester bring together twenty-two texts that show artists carving out spaces for social action where others playing more conventional roles have failed. Art’s imaginative capacity, more than anything else, enables them to do this. But, as the documents in their enormously compelling and useful anthology demonstrate, art’s successes in affecting social and political change are often incomplete and almost always difficult to measure. Even so, the documents they gather attest to the power of art to create freedom and possibility within the… Full Review
August 10, 2018
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