Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

Reviews in 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

Catherine E. Karkov
Cambridge University Press, 2002. 225 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (0521800692)
In this volume, Catherine Karkov examines the textual linkages and visual stratagems that unify Oxford, Bodleian Library Junius 11, an anthology including the Old English verse Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan. Karkov presents the imagery of Junius 11 in the context of eleventh-century learning and proposes a new and more sophisticated understanding of the relationship of text and image, where the images' performance as a commentary on the text depends on the audience's access to a "complex and highly learned intertextuality" (6). In doing so she raises the level of discourse both for Junius… Full Review
September 20, 2002
James Meyer
Yale University Press, 2001. 320 pp.; 30 color ills.; 130 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300081553)
The late Craig Owens began his 1979 review of Robert Smithson's collected writings[1] with a gloss on a passage from the artist's "A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art," which, Owens noted, fell "precisely at the center" (on page 67 of 133) of the first section of Smithson's book. Owens's conceit not only acknowledges the centrality of language in Smithson's work, but the way in which the essay itself both figures and performs the decentering effects of the "eruption of language into the field of the visual arts." The fact that James Meyer's discussion of Donald Judd's essay… Full Review
September 19, 2002
Xiaoneng Yang
Kansas City: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in association with University of Washington Press, 2000. 412 pp.; 1 color ills.; 114 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0942614305)
Reflections of Early China: Décor, Pictographs, and Pictorial Inscriptions by Xiaoneng Yang is an ambitious study that attempts to define the relationship between "pictorial" writing and pictorial imagery from early China, which is characterized as the late Neolithic through early Western Zhou periods, ca. 3000–1000 B.C.E. The author's primary interest in this book is neither art-historical nor aesthetic, but rather historical and epigraphic. His main goal is to identify the significance of zu hui, or clan signs, that are inscribed into Shang and early Western Zhou bronzes. To Yang these "signs," sometimes in the image of animals, body parts… Full Review
September 17, 2002
Nestor Garcia Canclini
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 200 pp. Paper $19.95 (0816629870)
Néstor García Canclini's book Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts, originally published in Spanish by Grijalbo in 1995, is an important contribution to the contemporary debate on citizenship from the vantage point of Latin America. This English-language version, translated by George Yúdice, presents timely arguments for reevaluating the increasing influence of consumption in the definition of cultural policies. García Canclini argues that multiculturalism, the empowerment of civil society and the expansion of culture industries and global markets go hand in hand with the weakening of the role played by nation-states in defining symbolic references for social belonging. Local… Full Review
September 12, 2002
Ivan Gaskell
Reaktion Books, 2001. 280 pp.; 1 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (1861890729)
If an Orlando-like epic romp through the scholarly and institutional afterlife of the painting reproduced on the cover of Ivan Gaskell's Vermeer's Wager: Speculations on Art History, Theory, and Art Museums is suggested by the book's title, then this book cannot readily be judged by its cover. The cover stands a chance only once we find out what the author means by "Vermeer's wager": ...that it is possible by means of art to embody systematic abstract ideas that constitute methodical thought in purely visual form exclusively by means of the representation of plausible modern domesticity; and secondly, that … Full Review
September 12, 2002
John T. Spike
Abbeville Press, 2001. 272 pp.; 160 color ills.; 190 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0789206390)
Can a book be judged by its cover? Monographs on Caravaggio, as David Carrier has observed in "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: Caravaggio and His Interpreters" (Word and Image 3 (1987): 50), are a case in point. The dust-jacket illustrations that embellish studies of this artist's work are usually selected from a small group of well-known canvases that are considered synecdochic of his stylistic or thematic preferences as a whole. In the case of John T. Spike's new book on the artist, the images on the front and back of the dust jacket--the Vienna David with the Head of… Full Review
September 6, 2002
Michael Zell
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 264 pp.; 114 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520227417)
In addition to providing refuge for Europe's oppressed Jewry, seventeenth-century Amsterdam served as the hub of a theological movement devoted to effecting rapprochement between Jews and Christians. This program, known today as "philosemitism," was mainly the brainchild of Dutch and English Protestant millenarians who, inspired by their interpretation of biblical prophecy, held such reconciliation to be a precondition of messianic redemption. Also central to the effort was a leading member of Amsterdam's Jewish community, the Sephardic rabbi and publisher Menasseh ben Israel (1604–57). A devoted messianist who saw redemption as the reward for the good actions of all peoples, Menasseh… Full Review
September 6, 2002
Wen C. Fong
Yale University Press, 2001. 300 pp.; 114 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300088507)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 30-August 19, 2001.
If the standard exhibition catalogue of Chinese art is a collection of topical essays and entries that describe individual items, then Between Two Cultures: Late-Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is both more and less than what we normally expect. Wen C. Fong's book neither provides sufficient description of the exhibition's contents, allowing the reader to know what was in it, nor tells him or her what proportion of the exhibition is represented in the catalogue. In its 114 color plates, Between Two Cultures, one of the few published works… Full Review
September 6, 2002
Ebba Koch
New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001. 345 pp.; 235 b/w ills. Cloth $72.00 (0195648218)
Ebba Koch's Mughal Art and Imperial Ideology: Collected Essays contains eleven essays published between 1982 and 1997 on the art and architecture produced under the Mughals (1526–1858), the longest-surviving and richest of all the dynasties to rule the Indian subcontinent. The texts range in length from a short, eleven-page reflection on the impact of the Jesuit Missions on the depictions of the Mughal emperors to a seventy-page, near book-length study of the decoration on the throne made for the emperor Shah Jahan in the Red Fort at Delhi. To meld the essays into a coherent whole, the illustrations from the… Full Review
September 3, 2002
Philip Steadman
Oxford University Press, 2001. 232 pp.; 10 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $25.00 (0192159674)
Philip Steadman presents his case for Johannes Vermeer's use of the camera obscura with prosecutorial flair, bringing in diagrams, reconstructions, and a variety of circumstantial evidence. Vermeer never wrote about his methods, and no physical evidence exists in the form of preparatory drawings or sketches. The inventory of his studio contents lists standard equipment, such as easels and canvases, without a hint about lenses, boxes, or any other unusual objects that might place a camera obscura in the artist's studio. As Steadman himself notes, the sole source of evidence for his conjectures lies within Vermeer's paintings. While… Full Review
August 30, 2002
Philip Sohm
Cambridge University Press, 2001. 328 pp.; 21 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521780691)
Philip Sohm's Style in the Art Theory of Early Modern Italy shines a brilliant new light upon the concept and descriptive terminology of artistic style. A worthy successor to his excellent Pittoresco. Marco Boschini, His Critics and Their Critiques of Painterly Brushwork in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), Sohm's new book maintains a high standard of critical sophistication, accurately framing a subtle analysis of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century stylistic vocabulary in relation to twentieth-century theories of language. He argues that the art-critical terminology of the period examined in the book was developed in an attempt to… Full Review
August 28, 2002
Karen-edis Barzman
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 377 pp.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521641624)
It would be difficult to overestimate the significance that has been given to the Florentine Accademia del Disegno in early modern art historiography. Founded in 1563 and generally credited to Giorgio Vasari, the first formal art academy in the West has assumed almost mythic proportions from the start. Its success was measured early, in the powerful influence it exerted on the European imagination, and it has assumed the status of a cultural monument of the first rank. Yet much has remained vague about its conception, its practices, and its functions. As Karen-edis Barzman notes in the concluding paragraph of her… Full Review
August 26, 2002
Gauvin Bailey
University of Toronto Press, 1998. 310 pp. Cloth (0802046886)
Two years after the foundation of the Society of Jesus in 1540, the first Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier disembarked at the Portuguese colony of Goa on the eastern seaboard of India. In rapid sequence, overseas missions were established on every known continent, including Japan (1549), China (1561), Mughal India (1580), and Paraguay (1609). Gauvin Bailey's ambitious study covers the artistic production of these four outer-circle Jesuit enterprises, highlighting their affinities and regional differences over more than two centuries until the Jesuits were expelled, in 1759 from Portuguese territories and 1767 from the Spanish empire. This dense volume, based on broad… Full Review
August 23, 2002
Miyeko Murase
Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2000. 464 pp.; 320 color ills.; 19 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0870999419)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 28–June 25, 2000.
The exhibition and collection catalogue, Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art, published in conjunction with the exhibition Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection, is Miyeko Murase's magnum opus. Collector Mary Griggs Burke notes in her introduction that she has been working with Murase for thirty-five years. It is quite clear when reading through this densely packed volume that Murase's many years of research have been poured into its pages. None of the writing appears stale, as essays on each piece have been refreshed with references to recent publications and… Full Review
August 21, 2002
Debora Silverman
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. 576 pp.; 147 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0374282439)
The sometimes cordial, often contentious relationship of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin has inspired scholars, curators, novelists, and Hollywood filmmakers. Their personal differences and the divergences in their approaches to art, particularly when they shared a studio in Provence, have fascinated art historians and the broader public alike. Debora Silverman's Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art addresses both groups of readers. This ambitious goal may explain both the book's qualities and some of the problems it poses for the specialist. Silverman, a cultural historian, focuses on the religious background of each man… Full Review
August 16, 2002