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

Karen Gerhart
University Of Hawai'i Press, 1999. 208 pp. $32.95 (0824821785)
Power is a front-burner issue in the postmodernist age, and scholarship from the last two decades mirrors this preoccupation. From that standpoint this is a timely book. Karen Gerhart explains (144-145) that the first half of her title, The Eyes of Power, refers simultaneously to the act of looking at the trappings of power, the process of giving visual form to power, and the gaze of power that observes the observer--a melange of ideas perhaps inspired by Foucault's notion of surveillance. In The Eyes of Power, Gerhart eschews the time-honored artist-and-oeuvre model in favor of a… Full Review
July 7, 2000
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Maureen Hennessey
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. Cloth (0810963922)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, November 6, 1999–January 30, 2000; Chicago Historical Society, February 26–May 21, 2000; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 17–September 24, 2000; San Diego Museum of Art, October 28–December 31, 2000; Phoenix Art Museum, February 24-May 6, 2001; The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, June 9–October 8, 2001; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, November 7, 2001–February 11, 2002
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director of the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, forthrightly states her agenda in her essay "The People's Painter": "Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People invites reflection on Rockwell as a force in twentieth-century American art and culture" (24). Moffatt reorients the critical debate by emphasizing Rockwell's cultural influence, rather than dithering about his status as either an artist or an illustrator. The admixture of popular culture studies and art history introduces Rockwell into an expanded art historical canon that embraces both avant-garde and kitsch. The exhibition catalogue reflects Moffatt's methodology: Fourteen art historians, historians, and… Full Review
June 26, 2000
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Mary Ellen Miller
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 240 pp.; 57 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Paper $14.95 (050020327X)
Mary Ellen Miller's Maya Art and Architecture is the first textbook in English on Maya art written by a major scholar of the Maya. It is, therefore, a milestone in the dissemination of knowledge about Maya art, particularly in a classroom setting, where this book will be most useful. That a book published in 1999 deserves this honor may come as a surprise since the study of Maya art is one of the more established in ancient New World art history. As Miller points out in her introduction, although systematic treatments of Maya art, such as Herbert Spinden's A Study… Full Review
June 23, 2000
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Francesco Colonna
Trans Joscelyn Godwin Thames and Hudson, 1999. 476 pp.; 174 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0500019428)
"Reader, if you wish to hear briefly what is contained in this work, know that Poliphilo tells that he saw remarkable things in a dream, hence he calls the work in Greek words 'the strife of love in a dream'. He represents himself as having seen many ancient things worthy of memory, and everything that he says he has seen, he describes point by point in the appropriate terms and in an elegant style: pyramids, obelisks, huge ruins of buildings." With these words, Francesco Colonna introduces his Hypnerotomachia Poliphili in 1499, at the closing of the age of the incunabulum… Full Review
June 16, 2000
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Patricia Lee Rubin and Alison Wright
Yale University Press, 2000. 352 pp.; 230 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300081715)
When Giovanni Rucellai wrote that spending surpassed earning as one of the great pleasures in life, he surely expressed the sentiments of many wealthy Florentines in the second half of the 1400s. Certain forms of conspicuous consumption had become acceptable now that the successful merchants, and the humanists they supported had adapted the Aristotelian notion of magnificenza to their own circumstances. The display of wealth became praiseworthy when it embellished the city and especially the houses of worship; the pursuit of beauty contributed to the honor of public and private patrons. The desire to earn similar praise presumably led the… Full Review
June 6, 2000
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Lothar Ledderose
Princeton University Press, 2001. 304 pp.; 16 color ills.; 275 b/w ills.; 50 ills. Paper $24.95 (0691009570)
This is a book about how works of art are made, how images and design motifs originate, and how artists think. By grappling with these issues, Lothar Ledderose performs a great service to the field of Chinese art, which has come to focus most of its energies on problems of reception, socio-economic factors, and historiography. Although Ledderose makes no such claim, his book can be read as a radical reorientation, a shifting of the focus of study away from the audience/receiver to the producer/artist. And although it is completely free of the jargon of critical theory, this is a profoundly… Full Review
June 6, 2000
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Alexander Vergara
Cambridge University Press. (0521632455)
It is curious that Peter Paul Rubens's relationship with Spain has never received monographic treatment. Certainly the Flemish artist's most notable commissions for the Spanish Hapsburgs have been analyzed in the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard series: relevant volumes include those on the portraits of the Spanish monarchs, their families, and members of their court (Frances Huemer, 1977; Hans Vlieghe, 1987); the Triumph of the Eucharist tapestry series (1627-28), commissioned by the Archduchess Isabella, daughter of Philip II (Nora De Poorter, 1978); the program of arches and stages for the triumphal entry (1635) of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand (John Rupert Martin… Full Review
June 2, 2000
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Mountain View, CA: Research Libraries Group, 1999. CD-ROM
The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) Library, a collection of more than 50,000 catalogued images of art works held in 26 North American museums, is a wonderful thing--but perhaps not the thing everyone might want it to be. A teacher might want such a collection to supply the images needed for standard art history courses. A researcher might want it to provide a catalogue to the vast holdings of these museums. When something is new and different, we often attempt to understand it using familiar models--in this case the slide collection or the catalogue of a museum's permanent collection. However… Full Review
May 25, 2000
Dawn Ades
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 1999. 196 pp.; 109 color ills.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300081774)
Now that the twentieth century is over it begins to make sense to assess modernism as a whole, and in that context artists like Salvador Dalí become unexpectedly important. For decades he has been an asked-and-answered question, largely on the lead of his expulsion from the Surrealist group in 1939 (when Breton said his work was "little more than crossword puzzles"). He did not help his case by moving so aggressively into marketing, and at the start of the twenty-first century he has the additional stigma of being a favorite among less informed buyers. With the rise of interest in… Full Review
May 25, 2000
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Michael Shapiro and Brett Miller
Berkeley: American Association of Museums, 1999. 120 pp.; 99 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0931201632)
At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1977, valuable collections vanished suddenly and probably forever from museums all over the United States. The dollar value of the loss has never, to my knowledge, been assessed. Yet, it certainly ranked in the many millions Surprisingly, museum officials at first took little notice of their loss. They filed no police reports, made no insurance claims. In the days and weeks that followed, there were no mass protests against the vast conspiracy, reaching to the very highest levels of the U.S. government, responsible for this uncompensated transfer of huge amounts of museum property,… Full Review
May 25, 2000
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Ewa Lajer-Burcharth
Yale University Press, 1999. 374 pp. Cloth (0300074212)
The Bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1989 has brought in its wake perhaps the most thoroughgoing reassessment of a major artist in recent art historiography, namely Jacques-Louis David. In that year David was the subject of what must be by the same token one of the most productive conferences ever, David Contre David. Since then a flood of articles has been supplemented by a major biography by Dorothy Johnson, Thomas Crow's Emulation, and now Ewa Lajer-Burcharth's long-awaited Necklines. For all the focus on death and dying in David's work, this particular artist refuses to die. … Full Review
May 24, 2000
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Jean-Loup Champion, ed.
Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1998. 469 pp. Cloth $720.00 (2070115119)
This survey of sculptures in French museums, well-chosen and profusely illustrated, covers the history of European sculpture. Written by an array of scholars--most of whom are curators, all recognized as preeminent in the field--the texts define the seventeen periods, from Paleolithic to contemporary sculpture, presented in this comprehensive tome. Their concise introductions are followed by a selection of photographs of works drawing upon the principal public collections of France, which, it goes without saying, have an impressive range of sculptures from which to choose. The ensemble gives a wide range of works, many by lesser known artists, offering a more… Full Review
May 23, 2000
Shelley Rice
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 168 pp.; 16 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0262681064)
New York University Grey Art Gallery, Nov. 16, 1999-Jan. 29, 2000; Museum of Contemporary Art/North Miami Gallery, Mar. 31-May 28, 2000.
This exhibition features the work of three women whose lives span the twentieth century: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, and Cindy Sherman. Lynn Gumpert, the cocurator of the exhibition and director of New York University's Grey Art Gallery, originally conceived of the project as a showcase for the extraordinary performance-portraiture produced between 1912 and 1954 by Cahun, a long-obscured member of Paris's surrealist milieu. While Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston included examples of Cahun's work in their milestone 1985 exhibition, "L'Amour fou: Photography and Surrealism," at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and a number of other important shows in Europe… Full Review
May 22, 2000
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Panayotis Tournikiotis
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 344 pp.; 34 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0262201178)
I must confess that I have a natural affinity toward books about history. I like the subject. I like reading about historians. I like discerning historiorgraphic assumptions and approaches toward the discipline. Thus, when an author offers a book with the promising title The Historiography of Modern Architecture I am inclined to read it and enjoy it--even if it presents only the chance to think about history. Tournikiotis's book does more, by offering various new insights. It is a thoughtful, intelligent, and sometimes astute study of a reasonable number (and choice) of historians of the modern movement: Nikolaus… Full Review
May 19, 2000
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Leonard Barkan
Yale University Press, 2000. 512 pp.; 206 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0300076770)
Sometime in the year 1512, the remains of a fallen obelisk were discovered by a barber digging a latrine near the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. Thanks to a detailed account in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, the monument was almost immediately recognized as the obelisk raised by the Emperor Augustus as the gnomon of a gigantic sundial in the Campus Martius. The Bellunese humanist Laelius Podager confirmed the identification by reading the Augustan inscription on the obelisk's base. Applications were made to Pope Julius II to excavate the monument and erect it in its former… Full Review
May 18, 2000
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