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

Diane Fischer, ed.
Exh. cat. Montclair: Montclair Art Museum in association with Rutgers University Press, 1999. 232 pp.; 101 b/w ills. $50.00 (0813526418)
The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, September 19, 1999-Jan.16, 2000; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,Philadelphia, PA, February 12-April 16, 2000; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH, May 18-August 13, 2000; Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 16-December 3, 2000; Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France, February 2-May 15, 2001.
Diane P. Fischer opens the principal essay of the Paris 1900 catalogue with a reference to the self-conscious declaration of the American Department of Fine Arts at the Paris Exposition of 1900 to present the United States as a nation free of "foreign trammels." The examination of this desire to assert a unique American identity, both political and artistic, binds Fischer's text with the other essays of the catalogue, detailing the complex interrelationships of national and artistic identity in 1890s America. Fischer constructs an opposition between the 1900 art display and that of the Universal Exposition of 1889, where American… Full Review
March 29, 2000
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Chantal Thomas
Trans Julie Rose MIT Press, 1999. 255 pp.; 6 b/w ills. Cloth $26.00 (0942299396)
Witness the arrest of Marie-Antoinette as image in the stark drawing by Jacques-Louis David that cuts the Queen's last vestige of luxury, a pair of black silk shoes we are told she wore in defiance to the guillotine, down to the barest gashes. That which Terry Castle diagnoses as "Marie-Antoinette obsession" [The Apparitional Lesbian (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993)] infuses these ancien régime material objects, associated with the doomed Queen, with a particular charge. A decade of scholarship, informed in various ways by feminist theory and queer commentary, challenges us to rethink any easy dismissal of the objects… Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Jonathan Crary
London, UK: MIT Press, 1999. 397 pp.; 86 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0262032651)
Jonathan Crary sets out the central thesis of his book at the outset of the seventy richly annotated pages of its first chapter, "Modernity and the Problem of Attention." The topic of attention became central to scientific research and intellectual thought in the late nineteenth century, he argues, with attention itself coming to be considered "an essential but fragile imposition of coherence and clarity onto the dispersed contents of consciousness" (18). As evidence, he cites the work of such figures as Henri Bergson, Wilhelm Dilthey, Thomas Edison, Wilhelm Wundt, and numerous others in the overlapping fields of optics, philosophy, physiology… Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Christopher M. S. Johns
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 288 pp.; 85 b/w ills.; 1 ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520212010)
The sculptor Canova rose to fame and fortune despite the conflicts that arose during the Napoleonic Era. He succeeded in doing so not only because of his exceptional artistic talents, but also because of his astute diplomacy that enabled him to remain a free agent. Christopher Johns makes clear the complex strategy of "political ambivalence" that allowed the artist to partake of the patronage of Europe's ruling elite, despite their bitter enmities. This instructive study of Canova, his art, and its political context makes for an indispensable history of patronage. Using meticulous documentation, culled from archives, libraries, and… Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Peter Harrison
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 12 color ills.; 127 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0500050945)
As anyone who has seen the 1977 film Star Wars can attest, the ruined Maya city of Tikal in northern Guatemala presents a dramatic spectacle. Stephen Spielberg used the image of the site's massive temples poking above the forest canopy to portray the secret rebel base. Tikal is Guatemala's most visited tourist attraction, and has fascinated both the general public and Mayanists since its discovery in the 1850s. Thanks to the University of Pennsylvania Tikal Project in the 1950s and 1960s, and to the Guatemalan national project in the 1980s, Tikal is also one of the best known Maya cities… Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Peter Wollen
Berkeley: University of California Press in association with The Hayward Gallery, 1999. 120 pp.; 99 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (1853321834)
Until recently, accounts of 20th-century art history have failed to see the relevance of fashion for their object of study. Typically, fashion was regarded as superficial, fleeting, and feminized; therefore, the interest in clothing design manifested by modernist artists from Henry Van de Velde to the Russian Constructivists has customarily been presented as an effort at rationalization or reform, and as a rejection of commercial dress design as practiced by such successful couturiers of the period as Jacques Doucet and Paul Poiret. However, as contemporary artists and scholars have become increasingly interested in the potential of sartorial display to articulate… Full Review
March 27, 2000
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Jane R. Becker and Gabriel P. Weisberg, eds.
Rutgers University Press in association with Dahesh Museum of Art, 1999. 170 pp.; 31 color ills.; 61 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0813527562)
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, October 2, 1999-January 2, 2000; The Dahesh Museum, New York, January 18-May 13, 2000;
"Our studio now enjoys the same advantages as the studio of the men, that is to say, we draw from the nude every day from the same model in the same pose as they do; consequently we can now paint compositions of more importance than before." So wrote the Ukrainian painter Marie Bashkirtseff in November 1880. The studio to which she referred was one of the ateliers of the Académie Julian, located in the center of Paris, where she had been studying since 1877. That the women of the Académie Julian were now able to work directly from the nude—and… Full Review
March 27, 2000
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Francis Newton
Cambridge University Press, 1999. (0521583950)
Building on E. A. Lowe's pioneering work of 1914, The Beneventan Script: A History of the South Italian Minuscule (2nd ed., ed. Virginia Brown, Rome: 1980) Francis Newton concentrates upon the single scriptorium of Montecassino, and its golden years under abbots Desiderius (1058-1087) and Oderisius (1087-1105). Newton has extended Lowe's list of manuscripts originating at the monastery; some he has re-dated on the basis of a detailed set of paleographical and codicological criteria, and internal evidence relating to important events in the abbey's history, such as the dedications of the new basilica in 1071 and of the two tower chapels… Full Review
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B.N. Goswamy
University of Washington Press, 1999. 304 pp.; 104 color ills.; 241 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (3907070763)
This is an important book. It is a more narrowly focused follow-up to Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India (1992) written in collaboration with Eberhard Fischer. Nainsukh of Guler: A Great Indian Painter from a Small Hill-State reads like the culmination of a long and distinguished scholarly career, but fortunately, Goswamy is still active in the field. The book is the product of an ongoing dialogue between the 18th-century artist and the scholar who rescued him from oblivion-- a dialogue that entered the public realm in the 1960s, when Goswamy first began to publish the astonishing archival material that… Full Review
March 23, 2000
Peter Galison and Emily Thompson, eds.
MIT Press, 1999. (0262071908)
This collection of twenty-three essays spans five-hundred years of science and architecture and includes scholarship from fields as disparate as the history of science, art history, physics, sociology, and engineering. The attempt to understand "the means by which architecture and science define one another through their encounter" (3) is a worthy, but wildly ambitious, task. Both architecture and science are expansive terms that have shifted meaning in fundamental ways over the last five hundred years. Consequently, it is rare in this omnibus to find articles in active dialogue: topics jump around, methodologies clash, and the working definitions of both science… Full Review
March 23, 2000
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David Morgan
Oxford University Press, 1999. 418 pp. Cloth $35.00 (0195130294)
This book arrived for review one day after an issue of American Quarterly that reviews six books under the caption "Visualizing Nineteenth-Century American Culture," even though none of the books' titles include the word "visual" (51 [December 1999]: 895-909). Then an article in CAA's own Art Journal asked, "Who's Afraid of Visual Culture?" (58 [Winter 1999]: 36-47). Several days later the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art queried members about launching a new periodical called Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture. Visual culture is in, and it is red-hot. The question this raises for me is… Full Review
March 23, 2000
Nancy Patterson Sevcenko and Christopher Moss, eds.
Princeton University Press. (0691007357)
Arguably, the "Sweet Land of Cyprus," to use the words of the early fifteenth-century chronicler Leontios Machairas, is culturally and visually one of the most complex parts of the medieval Mediterranean. The arts of medieval Cyprus, especially the thirteenth-century icon and monumental painting, formed a central part in the scholarship of the late Doula Mouriki. Medieval Cyprus contains fourteen lavishly illustrated articles encompassing visual material from Early Christian to the Venetian period and is offered as a tribute to Mouriki's memory and the wide range of her scholarship. The essays in the volume build on Mouriki's scholarship (outlined… Full Review
March 22, 2000
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Noel Carroll
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 440 pp. $18.95 (0198742371)
Here in San Francisco, every now and then a splendid mansion cracks in half, and beneath it appears an unexpected fault line. The mansion's architects call in the geologists, get down in the basement with flashlights, and try to remember enough of their old geology courses to understand whether or not the whole building has to come down. The architects are forced to start talking geology, wishing all the while they were back up in the light, doing what they trained to do. Noël Carroll's many books of aesthetics will interest art historians because aesthetics underlies art history… Full Review
March 9, 2000
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George Henderson
Cambridge University Press, 1999. $90.00 (0521551307)
Readers familiar with George Henderson's work on Gospel Books, the color purple, or the importance of opus sectile as a source for art in other media will find all three themes woven through the various topics covered in his new volume. This is an extraordinarily rich book that attempts to set the art of early Anglo-Saxon England within its broader religious and cultural context, both within the Insular world and in relation to late antiquity and the Early Christian church. The chapter titles promise a logical progression from subject to subject. The introduction is devoted to Early Christian… Full Review
March 7, 2000
Esther Pasztory
Cambridge University Press, 1997. 176 pp.; 121 color ills. Paper $18.95 (0521645514)
On the cover of Esther Pasztory's 1998 book we witness today's most celebrated pre-conquest Maya sacrificer, Lady Xoc, performing the act for which she is most notable: the Maya noblewoman lets blood by threading a thorn-studded rope through her tongue. Shield Jaguar, her male consort and eighth-century lord of Yaxchilan, stands close by brandishing a torch that illuminates the sacrificial scene. In recent years the sculpted lintel with Lady Xoc and Shield Jaguar, Yaxchilan Lintel 24 has emerged as the veritable metonym for Maya, perhaps even pre-Columbian, art. For this reason alone the image makes a fitting cover for a… Full Review
March 1, 2000
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