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

Jeff Kowalski
Oxford University Press, 2016. 432 pp. $125.00 (9780195079616)
Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol is one of the latest in a series of recent works on architecture in ancient Middle America. Jeff Kowalski's volume joins The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews (Scribner, 1998), and Stephen Houston's edited volumes Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture (Dumbarton Oaks, 1999), and Royal Courts of the Maya (with Takeshi Inomata, Westview Press, 2000). But unlike these volumes, which focus only on the Maya, Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol addresses architecture as a carrier of cultural meaning in most… Full Review
April 7, 2000
Emma Barker
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 272 pp.; 60 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Paper $27.50 (0300077831)
Mary Anne Staniszewski
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 400 pp.; 204 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262194023)
More than twenty years have passed since scholars Carol Duncan, Brian O'Doherty, and Alan Wallach published their groundbreaking critical analyses of art museums and their display strategies. These incisive essays launched a wave of vehement institutional critiques that effectively pitted critically informed academic concerns against contemporary museum practices. Two of the more recent additions to the fray--Mary Anne Staniszewski's The Power of Display and the Open University's Contemporary Cultures of Display, edited by Emma Barker--indicate that with the passage of time, the field has not only remained vigilant, but also matured considerably. The Museum of Modern Art… Full Review
April 5, 2000
Exhibition Schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, March 16-May 28, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, June 25-September 17, 2000
Cities as art centers have not always had the attention they deserve, especially in art exhibitions, because of the daunting problems of scale as well as the problems of representation of both the architectural environment and the unmovable monuments. There have been some truly notable exceptions, with particular relevance to this ambitious effort on Rome: Philadelphia's own Second Empire Paris exhibition as well as Detroit's 18th-Century Naples (1981). Once more Philadelphia has taken on a formidable "millennium show" challenge, and has done it justice. This exhibition is a revelation as well as a revision. The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome… Full Review
April 1, 2000
Richard Hill
Yale University Press, 1999. 288 pp.; 106 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (0300079486)
The fall issue of Aesthetics, the newsletter of the American Society for Aesthetics, brought an article by Saul Fisher called "Analytic Philosophy of Architecture: A Course." Quickly the introductory discussion proceeded to the question: "Why the Philosophy of Architecture?" That question was narrowed: "Why an Analytic Philosophy of Architecture?" Architects in recent years have of course shown quite an extraordinary interest in philosophy. But the analytic philosopher of architecture apparently cannot count on such interest. And yet, the author insisted, professional architects "should take note of what analytic philosophers are saying." Should they? Professor Fisher's answer: "The price of… Full Review
March 31, 2000
Mojmir Frinta
Prague: Maxdorf. 556 pp. (8085800942)
This volume, the first of two, offers a catalogue raisonné of the diverse motif punch impressions in panel painting and book illumination collected by the auther over a span of thirty-five years. As indicated in the title, the volume covers such evidence in the period from the early fourteenth to the fifteenth century in Italy, and also in countries north of the Alps, especially Bohemia. It further includes some early Byzantine and late medieval material. The photos of the motif punch impressions have been enlarged threefold for better reading. An accompanying metric scale allows for precise measurement. The motif punches… Full Review
March 30, 2000
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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