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

Debra Schafter
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 292 pp.; 87 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521791146)
Debra Schafter’s book contributes to a small but growing literature committed to identifying intersections of, rather than differences between, ornament and modernism. The stakes of this endeavor should not be underestimated. One needs only to remember Adolf Loos’s proclamation that “the evolution of humanity would cause ornament to disappear from functional objects,” in his polemic from 1908, aptly titled “Ornament and Crime,” to grasp the significance of this turnaround in... Full Review
September 12, 2003
Anne Wilkes Tucker, Dana Friis-Hansen, Kaneko Ryuichi, and Takeba Joe
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2003. 432 pp.; 356 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0300099258)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX, March 2–April 27, 2003; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, May 25–July 27, 2003
See Mikiko Hirayama’s review of this book From its beginnings, photography has been the agent of an international dialogue of its own making. It has enacted and exemplified tensions between local cultures and wider historical energies: those of colonialist assimilation and resistance, of commercial engagement, of transcultural communication. Study of the medium leads quickly and irresistibly to international issues. Therefore few... Full Review
September 11, 2003
Gisela Schmidt
New York: Peter Lang, 2001. 526 pp.; 49 b/w ills. Paper $71.95 (082045611X)
Art history has now and then been structured around psychoanalytic theory and method of inquiry. Clinical method and therapy have often been relied upon to interpret paintings as well. Nevertheless, the two modes of inquiry, historical and therapeutic, have been wary of each other’s conclusions, and therefore a relationship that varies from outright antagonism to interdisciplinary merger has characterized their past. That history is usually thought to begin with Sigmund Freud’s... Full Review
September 9, 2003
Jodi Cranston
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 258 pp.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (052165324x)
The Poetics of Portraiture in the Italian Renaissance is an ambitious book, a prolonged meditation on the reflexive nature of portraiture. It constitutes a novel contribution to the history of Renaissance portraiture in that Jodi Cranston seeks to bring modern literary criticism and concepts to bear in her discussion of sixteenth-century Venetian and northern Italian likenesses. Stating that “thinking of pictures in terms of analogous structures characterized the general... Full Review
September 8, 2003
Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, ed.
Exh. cat. New York and London: Japan Society and British Museum Press, 2001. 304 pp.; 230 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0810967480)
Japan Society, New York, October 17–December 31, 2002; British Museum, London, February 5–April 13, 2003
In Japan, little formal distinction existed between the fine and decorative arts until about a century ago, when the Japanese began to adopt Western art-historical language and structures. Before then, all works of art—painting, ceramics, sculpture, and textiles—were seen as playing an equally vital role in the embellishment of interior and exterior spaces and as setting the aesthetic tone of a specific locale. The careful choice of the painting to be displayed in the tokonoma,... Full Review
September 5, 2003
Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, ed.
Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2002. 352 pp.; 189 color ills.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0300097670)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, January 17–April 20, 2003; Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 7–September 7, 2003; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, October 11, 2003–January 4, 2004 . Marsden Hartley. New Haven: Yale University Press, in association with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2002. 352 pp. 189 color ills.; 67 b/w. $55.00 (cloth) (0300097670)
The large retrospective devoted to the work of Marsden Hartley, organized by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser for the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, is a delight, a sadness, and a puzzle in nearly equal measure. The delight is easy to relate. It was thrilling to walk into the Hartford exhibition’s first gallery and face a wall of Hartley’s brightly colored, nonrepresentational paintings made in Paris and Berlin in 1912 and 1913 (cat. nos. 8–11). Their recognizable motifs—numbers, seated... Full Review
September 4, 2003
Eric Thunø
Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2002. 216 pp.; 8 color ills.; 133 b/w ills.; 141 ills. Paper (8882652173)
In Image and Relic: Mediating the Sacred in Early Medieval Rome, Erik Thunø thoroughly explores three objects that could be justly deemed among the most important works of art created in the Carolingian period. (One of these is pictured here.) Commissioned as part of what was apparently a coherent papal project of art production in support of the cult of saints and relics, the objects were made for the most prestigious... Full Review
September 2, 2003
Ann Reynolds
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003. 386 pp.; 10 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0262182270)
Robert Smithson can be a trap for the critic. So much of what is interesting in his work can only be accessed through his writing, and his ideas are so captivatingly threaded through both that quotation often stands in for interpretation. Most studies of Smithson are just extended glosses and therefore do not tell us anything that we could not find out ourselves by going to the same source. Art history offers two correctives to this state of affairs: close study of the works themselves, and... Full Review
September 2, 2003
Christopher S. Wood, ed.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Zone Books, 2000. 472 pp.; 39 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (1890951145)
See Margaret Olin’s review of this book. The Anglophone public owes a great debt to Christopher Wood and his colleagues for their various translations of classic German art-historical texts. This latest volume is centered on the work of the so-called Second School of Vienna Art Historians, active in the 1920s and 1930s. Writings by its key members, Hans Sedlmayr and Otto Pächt, are prefaced by two pieces from Alois Riegl,... Full Review
August 29, 2003
Janice Leoshko
Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003. 184 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $44.95 (0754601382)
Sacred Traces: British Explorations of Buddhism in South Asia examines steps in the process by which our understanding of Buddhist sculpture—particularly those from eastern India, the region where Buddhism originated—has been shaped by British colonial interest in the region. In addressing this issue, Janice Leoshko draws upon images as diverse as the Bharhut rail pillars from the first century B.C.E., medieval clay votives and models of the Bodh Gaya temple,... Full Review
August 29, 2003