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

Matthew Affron, Mark A. Castro, Dafne Cruz Porchini, and Renato González Mello, eds.
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2016. 432 pp.; 350 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300215229)
Exhibition schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, October 25, 2016–January 8, 2017; Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, February 3–April 30, 2017; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 25–October 1, 2017
The third and last iteration of Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950 on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2017, is just one of the several exhibitions over the last five years that has sought to examine and complicate the story about the development of avant-garde movements in Mexico and their impact on the cultural and social life of the country. This latest surge of interest in modern Mexican art started with Vanguardia en México 1915–1930, organized by the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City in 2013, and continued with the exhibition Modern Mexico Avant-Garde… Full Review
June 18, 2018
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Ananda Cohen Suarez
Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 25 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Paperback $29.95 (9781477309551)
The vast area of the Andes was home to extraordinary cultures that produced ritual imagery for millennia before the arrival of the Spanish and continued with new subjects and significance under the dictates of the Catholic Church. Easel paintings by indigenous artists from Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca empire, have received considerable attention along with other Precolumbian and colonial ceramics, metallurgy, architecture, and textiles from the city and its environs, Changes in artistic production follow the course of cultural, social, political, and religious action through numerous administrative systems, culminating with the Spanish in the sixteenth century. However, there… Full Review
June 15, 2018
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What distinguishes the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Calder: Hypermobility exhibition from other recent Calder exhibitions is its presentation of sculpture as performance art. Jay Sanders, the Whitney Museum’s curator of performance art, and his colleagues Greta Hartenstein and Melinda Lang advance the claim that, in order to be adequately apprehended, Calder’s sculptures ought to be seen and heard in motion or, as they would have it, in a state of activation. From the position of art historical argument, this seems so logical as to sound self-evident and therefore unworthy of serious consideration. However, in the museum setting, the implementation… Full Review
June 13, 2018
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Ellsworth Kelly
Blanton Museum of Art, February 18–April 29, 2017
Seldom is an artist offered the opportunity of creating a complete space. Seldom is an artist offered complete control of the architecture, lighting, and contents of a venue, or given complete control of the experience of the spectator. More seldom still does a public museum afford such an occasion to an artist, allowing for the creation of a truly permanent installation. With the realization of Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin accomplishes this rare feat, enabling Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) to join an elite list of artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries… Full Review
June 11, 2018
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Guy Hedreen
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 408 pp.; 25 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Hardcover $120.00 (9781107118256)
In describing Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini wedding portrait, signed and dated by the artist in 1434, Ernst Gombrich wrote: “For the first time in history the artist became the perfect eye-witness in the truest sense of the term.” But is this actually the first instance? In the late sixth century BCE an Athenian vase painter signed his name “Smikros egrapsen” (Smikros painted it) on a red-figure stamnos now in Brussels that depicts an otherwise typical Athenian symposium, namely, young men lounging on couches, wine cups in hand while being entertained by female courtesans. The central of the three symposiasts… Full Review
June 8, 2018
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Anne McCauley
Exh. cat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 408 pp.; 364 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300229080)
Princeton University Art Museum, October 7, 2017–January 7, 2018; Davis Museum, Wellesley College, February 7–June 3, 2018; Portland Museum of Art, Maine, June 22–September 16, 2018; Cleveland Museum of Art, October 21, 2018–January 21, 2019
Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925 boldly rethinks the established histories of fine art photography’s development in America, a topic foundational to the history of photography’s origins as a discipline. Clarence H. White (1871–1925) was one of the leading photographers of the American Pictorialist movement, which advocated the practice of photography as a fine art medium. His life and work were conducted in surroundings as varied as the parlors and backyards of Newark, Ohio, a gracious urban townhouse in Harlem, shore cabins in Maine, and the modest farm buildings and open vistas of… Full Review
June 7, 2018
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Catherine Walworth
Series: Refiguring Modernism. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 34 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Hardcover $94.95 (9780271077697)
Catherine Walworth’s Soviet Salvage: Imperial Debris, Revolutionary Reuse, and Russian Constructivism is an unusual entry in the literature on early Soviet art, which is sure to puzzle many readers and (in all likelihood) infuriate at least a few. Readers of academic books are familiar enough with such responses, immersed as we are in the unceasing drive for self-criticism and revision that dulls the polemical sting to a tickle. Walworth’s book is no argument for argument’s sake, however; it neither delights in overturning accepted interpretations nor revels in hyperbole. Instead, it explores the possibility of discarding key distinctions honed by generations… Full Review
June 4, 2018
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Jane Taylor
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 165 pp.; 71 color ills.; 6 b/w ills. Hardcover $35.00 (9780226791203)
Jane Taylor, friend and longtime collaborator of William Kentridge, examines the artistic process behind Kentridge’s 2010 production of the Russian opera The Nose, which was based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 short story of the same name and composed by Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich in 1928. As Taylor tells us, the book is less about the production of the opera and more about the making of it. In other words, she is interested in examining how the artist deals with making as a problem-solving operation as well as the operations that happen between head and hand in the course of Kentridge’s… Full Review
May 31, 2018
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When SmartHistory.org, the online scholarly resource for art history students and instructors, debuted in 2007, it was a radical proposition. Instead of purchasing expensive textbooks, students could access videos modeling in-depth visual analysis of well-known works of art and architecture, robustly researched essays on single works and overarching themes, and images that articulate a global art history survey, free through their web browser. Both the website interface and the YouTube–style videos contained within were, in many senses, more germane to students’ consumption patterns and learning habits than a ten-pound textbook. SmartHistory cofounders Beth Harris and Steve Zucker, both graduates… Full Review
May 23, 2018
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Heidi C. Gearhart
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 236 pp.; 30 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Cloth $94.95 (9780271077154)
Through the pages of Heidi Gearhart’s book, Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art, readers are introduced to the surviving medieval copies of Theophilus’s text, On Diverse Arts, and are provided the opportunity to reframe the academy’s classification of this celebrated treatise. Gearhart makes a convincing argument that based on physical evidence, along with the prologues and instructions of On Diverse Arts (often described as a practical handbook or a recipe collection), Theophilus methodically lays out the specific processes for a deliberate system of art-making principles and values—in essence “a distinctly medieval theory of art” (1)… Full Review
May 21, 2018
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Robert Williams
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 314 pp.; 113 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781107131507)
In Raphael and the Redefinition of Art in Renaissance Italy, Robert Williams has three aims. First, he wants to offer a new account of the achievement of Raphael, emphasizing his expansion of painting’s expressive and conceptual range. Second, he seeks to redefine the Renaissance in Raphael’s image, arguing that Raphael transformed Renaissance art in essential ways that he thinks have been misplaced by recent art historians. Third, he argues for the reorientation of the whole of art history itself, using Raphael to expose the prejudices of the field and the problems in current attitudes toward art and artists. Ultimately… Full Review
May 17, 2018
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Iveta Manasherova and Elena Kamenskaya
Moscow: ABC Design and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, 2016. 376 pp.; 315 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. Hardcover $59.01 (9785433000810)
Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, December 8, 2016–March 12, 2017
Georgia is a country in the Caucasus with a strong tradition of Eastern Christian art. Secular visual art developed here in the early twentieth century. Although it had been part of the Russian Empire since the early nineteenth century, Georgia enjoyed a brief period of independence as a democratic republic from 1918 to 1921. The capital, Tbilisi—or Tiflis, as it was then widely known—became an important destination for intellectuals fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The city also quickly became a center for the international avant-garde. This overlooked chapter from the history of European modernism recently received… Full Review
May 16, 2018
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Leon Wainwright
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017. 240 pp.; 45 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781781384176)
With the objective of freeing the art of British artists of African, Asian, and Caribbean descent, known as “black British artists,” from its historically racialized silo, Leon Wainwright’s new book, Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art, sets out the author’s ambitious project: to bring the philosophy of phenomenology to bear upon these artworks. This book is theoretically well-grounded, and Wainwright has clearly spent a great deal of time contemplating Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Jacques Derrida, among others. However, he has also been in dialogue with scholars and critics… Full Review
May 14, 2018
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Heinrich Wölfflin
Trans Jonathan Blower 100th Anniversary Edition. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015. 368 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781606064528)
Wölfflin and the Promise of Anonymity From a certain perspective, it is unclear why art history needs a new translation of Heinrich Wölfflin’s The Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art. There are a range of other foundational documents of the discipline that have yet to receive even a first hearing. Moreover, the M. D. Hottinger translation of the text is in print and widely available, and retains much of the elegance, if not the letter, of Wölfflin’s  prose. I gather, too, that readers of the new hundredth-anniversary edition are hardly gravitating… Full Review
May 11, 2018
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Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez, eds.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 392 pp.; 21 color ills.; 64 b/w ills. Hardcover $30.00 (9780295999579)
Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez have done a great service to the field of visual culture studies with the publication of Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture. They have brought together an important collection of recent essays on the eponymous themes and topics, but they have also produced with this volume (stemming from a 2014 VolkswagenStiftung-sponsored symposium in Hanover, Germany) a nodal point in the broadening network of intellectual activity concerned with questions of blackness and the visual among academics and artists, from the emerging to the established. This rich scholarly collection bridges the gap… Full Review
May 9, 2018
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