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

Robert Hillenbrand
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 288 pp.; 80 color ills.; 190 b/w ills. Paper $16.95 (0500203059)
The old Praeger World of Art series attempted to cover the history of world art with a large number of affordable paperbacks with color illustrations. David Talbot Rice's Islamic Art was a pioneering book in the series; published in 1965, it was revised in 1975. Never a particularly noteworthy introduction to the field, it did at least possess the virtues of being in print, affordable, and the only book of its kind. With the appearance of the two Pelican History of Art volumes on Islamic art, the first by Richard Ettinghausen and Oleg Grabar (1987) and the second by Sheila… Full Review
March 1, 2000
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Yve-Alain Bois
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 263 pp.; 185 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (1891771078)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 6-May 16, 1999; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Jun. 8-Aug. 15, 1999; Art Institute of Chicago, Sept. 11-Dec. 5, 1999
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 6-May 16, 1999; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Jun. 8-Aug. 15, 1999; Art Institute of Chicago, Sept. 11-Dec. 5, 1999
Isn't it puzzling that while people who study and write about, say, Shakespeare or Kafka call themselves literary critics, people whose work concerns Michelangelo or Matisse call themselves art historians? As someone who does call himself an art critic, and whose writing is primarily concerned with the work of artists who are or might be alive today, I find most writing--even some of the best of it--by those who call themselves art historians uncritical, precisely because it lacks the commitment to the hermeneutical encounter in the present which is the hallmark of criticism, and which is in no way contradictory… Full Review
February 29, 2000
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Ken Breisch
MIT Press, 1997. 354 pp. Cloth (0262523469)
Architectural history as often serves to mythologize celebrated architects as to examine their careers critically. The nineteenth-century Boston architect H. H. Richardson is a case in point. It was less Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer's pioneer biography, Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works, published two years after Richardson's death in 1886, than Henry-Russell Hitchcock's The Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times of 1936, that is the key mythologizing text. Although Kenneth A. Breisch does not berate Hitchcock for his interpretive agenda, he does reexamine Richardson's buildings with respect to "his times." Breisch filters this examination through the series… Full Review
February 17, 2000
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Elizabeth Hutton Turner
New Haven and Washington, D.C.: Yale University Press in association with The Phillips Collection, 1999. 160 pp.; 80 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00
Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., April 17–July 18, 1999; Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 7–October 17, 1999; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, November 7, 1999–January 30, 2000; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, February 19–May 14, 2000.
This catalogue accompanies the exhibition of the same title, organized as "the first to focus in-depth on O'Keeffe's aesthetics through an examination of her paintings of objects" (vii). This formalist approach might seem a curiously retardataire method to employ nowadays, but those familiar with O'Keeffe scholarship will relish the focus on the artist's work rather than her self. The first museum to purchase work from Georgia O'Keeffe was the Phillips Collection, in 1926. At the same institution, curator and project director Elizabeth Hutton Turner conceived and carried out this new exhibition. Though the works in the installation are formally grouped… Full Review
February 11, 2000
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Ruth Philips and Christopher Steiner, eds.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 424 pp. Paper (0520207971)
Jonathan Batkin's article on the early dealers in pueblo pottery, one of the most eye-opening in this valuable volume, also has one of the best stories: in a curio store in Santa Fe in the late nineteenth century, among the pottery rain gods (shipped in barrels of 100 at $6.50 the barrel), the beadwork and tambourines, the Jicarilla Apache baskets and Navajo silver, the owner claimed to be able to show you Ben Hur's trunk and the skull of Henry Ward Beecher "as a boy." It made me laugh, and it encapsulated what the essays in this volume reveal--and what… Full Review
February 11, 2000
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Mark Johnstone
Newark, N.J.: G + B Arts International, 1999. 208 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. (9057033216)
Mark Johnstone's book follows in the tradition of earlier California surveys such as Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1977) and 50 West Coast Artists: A Critical Selection of Painters and Sculptors Working in California (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1981) by Henry Hopkins. Focusing on Los Angeles, Contemporary Art in Southern California includes an introduction and individual entries on forty-three artists, each accompanied by several reproductions. The design of the entries and illustrations is somewhat repetitive, which means that the book is best consulted sporadically rather than read straight through. Many… Full Review
February 9, 2000
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Colum Hourihane, ed.
Princeton University Press, 1999. 342 pp.; 4 color ills.; 175 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0691010021)
Most of the papers in Image and Belief were presented in 1997 at a conference entitled "Iconography at the Index," which celebrated the eightieth anniversary of the Index of Christian Art. It should be said from the outset that the theme of "image and belief" is sometimes tangential to the collected papers. This book is really about iconography, as the conference title makes plain. Part one constitutes a diverse and somewhat disparate range of case studies, while Part two attempts to address methodological issues that inform the ways scholars think about iconography and access images for research. Given… Full Review
February 8, 2000
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The study of ukiyo-e, pictures of Edo Japan's "floating world" of pleasure and popular entertainment, has a long and very robust history in Europe and the United States owing to the enthusiastic formation of great print collections that began in the late nineteenth century. The continued passionate involvement of collectors has made ukiyo-e studies a stronghold of print connoisseurship and narrow factual research. Within the academic community, developing a tradition of broader contextual interpretation has taken longer, but the process has accelerated over the last two decades. Professor Screech's study of erotic images and sexuality in the Edo period adds… Full Review
February 4, 2000
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Melissa Dabakis
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 312 pp.; 312 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521461472)
This solidly researched book examines a diverse array of outdoor monuments, small sculptures, and other images that represent themes of U.S. labor between the 1880s and the mid-1930s. Author Melissa Dabakis concludes that the objects in this broadly defined group, ranging from Albert Weinert's sixteen-foot Haymarket Monument near Chicago to Saul Baizerman's five-inch Cement Man, constitute a significant U.S. visual art tradition on the subject of work that predates New Deal-era fanfares to American labor. The book focuses on the role they played in contemporary discourses about the work ethic, masculinity, immigration, and collective memory. While the… Full Review
February 2, 2000
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Richard E. Spear
Yale University Press, 1998. $60.00 (0300070357)
Richard Spear's much-anticipated book on Guido Reni promises a new approach that would seriously treat this important artist's achievement conceptually and historically--in contrast to previous studies, which Spear contends are too narrowly focused on chronology and style. In this effort, Spear calls on insights from post-Foucauldian social history, feminism, and psychology in order to explain the artist's personality and its relation to societal norms. While Spear bravely admits that his own endeavor may fail and only contribute more to an understanding of the painter's life than his art, he is wrong. Indeed, though it is marked by unevenness and some… Full Review
February 1, 2000
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Maurie D. McInnis
Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. 350 pp.; 90 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (1570033145)
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, April 9-July 3, 1999.
In a painting by John Singleton Copley, rendered in Rome in 1775, Ralph and Alice Izard of Charleston, South Carolina, sit in the imaginary setting of a veranda that offers a perfect view of the Colosseum. Numerous objects frame this vista even as they compete with it for attention; such standard fare of Grand Manner portraits as a column and drapery augment particular items like a Greek krater, a contemporary Roman table, and a cast of an ancient Roman figure group. This double portrait graces the dust jacket of In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad 1740–1860, the beautifully produced… Full Review
January 26, 2000
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Catherine Soussloff, ed.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 239 pp.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0520213033)
The goal of this volume, as Catherine Soussloff indicates in her introduction, is to introduce the subject of Jewish identity to art history and to explore its complexites. Compared to The Jew in the Text (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995), edited by Linda Nochlin and Tamar Garb, which examines Jewish identity through depictions of Jews in art and literature, this anthology has a greater scope, although fewer essays. The contributions cover issues ranging from the concept of Jewish art, aniconism, and anti-Semitism to the importance of Jewish identity to numerous artists, collectors, and art historians. While there are several themes… Full Review
January 26, 2000
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Marcia Hall
New York and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 349 pp.; 16 color ills.; 188 b/w ills. Paper $18.95 (0521482453)
This important survey of sixteenth-century Italian painting following Raphael's death in 1520 treats one of the most popular and stimulating periods for recent art historical enquiry. Authoritative and provocative, the author shows a close awareness of previous art historical scholarship and incorporates the latest research into a text covering art from the Sistine Chapel ceiling to the Farnese Gallery. This type of survey of Italian painting, while remaining consistently popular in Italy, is particularly needed for an English readership as nothing has been attempted on this scale for the Renaissance since the 1960s. The book originated in the… Full Review
January 24, 2000
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Sándor Radnóti
Trans Ervin Dunaie Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999. 255 pp. Paper $18.95 (084769206X)
In this fine work, Hungarian art-philosopher Sándor Radnóti uses the concept of forgery to explore important issues in art theory. It is an insightful strategy. Like the image of the Japanese novelty game in the recollection scene of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, the topic of forgery unfolds to reveal an entire landscape of aesthetics. In the game, tightly wrapped paper placed in a water-filled bowl opens up to display a flower or a town; so, too, the topic of forgery opens up discussions of authenticity, originality, value, and even the current status of the art world itself. … Full Review
January 20, 2000
R. Ward Bissell
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 688 pp.; 27 color ills.; 257 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0271017872)
Without question, among scholars of Italian Baroque art, no one was better positioned to write the "definitive" monograph on Artemisia Gentileschi than R. Ward Bissell, the author of the fundamental archival study of the artist, "Artemisia Gentileschi: A New Documented Chronology," Art Bulletin 50, 1968,153-68, and of the only monographic study of her painter-father, Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting (University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981). And, by any measure, the book under review is that "definitive" monograph, an impressive study comprising a broad, principally chronological exploration of Artemisia's career in a terse… Full Review
January 19, 2000
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