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

Samantha A. Noël
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021. 264 pp.; 8 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Paper $26.95 (9781478011408)
In Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism, Samantha A. Noël cites E. E. Cummings’s description of Josephine Baker in the premiere of La Folie Du Jour at the Folies-Bergère in 1926 as “equally nonprimitive and uncivilized or, beyond time in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetic” (169). Noël’s study makes sense of how the tropical has been framed beyond arithmetic or reason into an aesthetic strategy by Black artists across the Black Atlantic. If, for Cummings, tropicality, as personified by Baker, is “neither infrahuman nor superhuman, but somehow both; a mysteriously unkillable Something,” (169) Noël explores its persistence through the… Full Review
November 20, 2023
Luisa Elena Alcalá Donegani
Madrid: Abada Editores, 2022. 462 pp.; 30 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth ( 9788419008084)
Why might a study on the cult of the Virgin of Loreto in Mexico be of interest to readers today? Precisely because it deals with one of the most universal Marian devotions of the early modern period, which allows us to understand the global through the local. As demonstrated by Luisa Elena Alcalá, the Virgin of Loreto embodies a relic of exceptional duality. In one respect, it comprises the Holy House, the very place where the Virgin received the announcement of Jesus’ birth and where the Holy Family would live after their return from Egypt. In 1291, after escaping the… Full Review
November 15, 2023
Charlene Villasenor Black
Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2022. 398 pp.; 126 color ills. Cloth $119.00 (9780826504715)
Charlene Villaseñor Black’s latest book is concerned with female saints and their aesthetic dimensions and transformations. The author chooses five case studies in an effort to demonstrate and explicate the marked changes the devotions underwent from early modern Spain to New Spain. The function of images within wider, religious, social, and political contexts is a primary concern for the author, and she strives to be especially attuned to “women’s experience” and “issues related to indigeneity and race” (8). All chapters follow a similar pattern—first showing how select saints were seen in Spain before discussing their manifestations and marked differences in… Full Review
November 13, 2023
Inge Reist, ed.
Studies in the History of Collecting & Art Markets, Volume: 14. Amsterdam: Brill, 2022. 280 pp.; 65 color ills. Hardback $78.00 (9789004460423)
Since 2007, the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Art Reference Library in New York has been a leader in its field. As a list in this book’s foreword demonstrates, the center has produced a number of scholarly tomes that have enriched the study of collecting. This volume departs somewhat from its predecessors in examining the collecting practices and art market of a much earlier period than the center has hitherto done, namely those in Italy during the years 1450–1650. In publishing with Brill’s growing series Studies in the History of Collecting & Art Markets, the center… Full Review
November 8, 2023
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, November 20, 2022–April 2, 2023,
Omar Ba’s recent exhibition Omar Ba: Political Animals, at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), updates W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness, which Du Bois restricted to the African American experience in the United States. Du Bois positioned double consciousness as the burden African Americans endure as emissaries of Black culture, while at the same time pledging allegiance to the ideals of being an American in a society ruled by whiteness. Du Bois writes, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness . . .  one ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls… Full Review
November 6, 2023
Miruna Achim, Susan Deans-Smith, and Sandra Rozental, eds.
Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2021. 312 pp. Cloth $63.50 (9780816539574)
For visitors to the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, it would be “hard to imagine today a mummy or the glass model of a jellyfish next to the emblematic Piedra del Sol” (4). How stabilizing are the geographical, historical, or cultural ligaments between a disintegrating skeleton, a jellyfish in glass, and the premier iconic, basalt embodiment of Mexico? Compelling viewers to buy into a curatorial proposition in which the display of such disparate objects in proximity to each other did or could make sense is the work of the innovative and provocative collection of ten riveting essays in Museum… Full Review
November 2, 2023
Pamela Karimi
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2023. 452 pp. Paper $35.00 (9781503631809)
In Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practices, Pamela Karimi explores a wide spectrum of contemporary artistic practices in Iran from 1980 to the present day that engage with diverse urban and natural sites, with a particular emphasis on Tehran, Iran’s capital city. These spatial artistic practices range from graffiti and architectural design projects to Gesamtkunstwerk installations in dilapidated buildings, ephemeral performances in remote mountains or in prominent urban spots, choreographies for a trusted group of audience members, theatrical pieces staged in unconventional settings such as taxis, and interventionist strategies within gallery spaces. Previous scholarly works investigating the… Full Review
October 30, 2023
Sophie Lynford
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2022. 264 pp.; 112 color ills. Cloth $65.00 ( 9780691231914)
Sophie Lynford’s Painting Dissent: Art, Ethics, and the American Pre-Raphaelites is a landmark contribution to scholarship on nineteenth-century American art. Using the work of seven key figures to trace the rise, development, and afterlife of the American Pre-Raphaelite movement, Painting Dissent offers a newly comprehensive account of a significant but understudied group that shook up American landscape practice, aesthetic thought, and many other cultural endeavors in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Indeed, one of the great contributions of Lynford’s book is its account of the multidisciplinary dynamics of the American Pre-Raphaelite project. Painting Dissent examines architects and scientists… Full Review
October 25, 2023
Andrew Dewdney
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 240 pp.; 0 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781912685820)
In Forget Photography, Andrew Dewdney calls on scholars to stop using photography theory to understand digital images and the visual cultures they characterize. Made with pixels, circulated by data algorithms and social networks, the computational images that suffuse contemporary life require, in Dewdney’s words: “A more productive discourse in which the hybridity of the networked image, inequality, racism and climate change stand at the centre of concern” (12). It is an expansive, necessary, and difficult goal. Aiming to clear space for this more productive discourse, Forget Photography consigns photography to the past: “The analogue photograph, the world to which… Full Review
October 23, 2023
April 23–September 24, 2023, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond, curated by Linda Komaroff at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), brings together an international roster of forty-two women artists who, as the opening wall text describes them, “were born or live in what can broadly be termed Islamic societies or associated diaspora communities.” The exhibition joins several other exhibitions over the past two decades or so that focus on the contemporary art production of women from the Islamic world, such as Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World (2002), She… Full Review
October 18, 2023
Gillian B. Elliott and Anne Heath, eds.
Series: Art and Material Culture in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Volume: 18. Leiden: Brill, 2022. 482 pp. Hardback (9789004506961)
In Art, Architecture, and the Moving Viewer, c. 300–1500 CE: Unfolding Narratives, Gillian Elliott and Anne Heath have assembled an excellent collection of essays that considers how medieval spaces and image programs mutably engaged their viewers. While studies of movement through medieval spaces abound, the richly illustrated volume places important emphasis on temporal considerations that play out in the idea of “unfolding narratives.” Indeed, it is this provocative phrase, more than the title’s “moving viewer,” that best signposts the volume’s center of gravity and contribution to the field. The editors’ coauthored introduction begins with the example of the early… Full Review
October 16, 2023
Kobena Mercer
Richard D. Cohen Lectures on African & African American Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022. 240 pp.; 48 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300247268)
Alain Locke and the Visual Arts takes a deep critical dive into Alain Locke’s significant contributions to African American and Black diasporic visual culture through critical analysis of his cross-cultural and philosophical writings of the 1930s and 1940s. In his introductory chapter, Mercer establishes Locke as philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance and New Negro movement, and as a public intellectual interested in social change in the pluralistic forging of African American identity via cultural pursuits such as art, literature, music, and theater. Mercer dissects Locke’s intercultural approach to the visual arts, reminding the reader that he was foremost a… Full Review
October 11, 2023
Patricio del Real
New Haven and London: Yale Universtiy Press, 2022. 320 pp.; 33 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300254563)
In recent years, architectural history has seen a sizeable growth in research focusing on the built environments of Latin America. Architecture, architects, and increasingly systems and institutions from this area of the so-called “Global South” have been brought to light, analyzed, and given critical attention to the point of shifting the supposed centers and axes of “canonical” modernity. Patricio del Real’s recent book, Constructing Latin America: Architecture, Politics, and Race at the Museum of Modern Art is a most welcome addition to this expanding body of scholarship.  To be sure, this book can be categorized in a variety of manners… Full Review
October 10, 2023
Mechtild Widrich
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2023. 256 pp. Paperback £25.00 (9781526168115)
Mechtild Widrich’s new book offers an argument and a demonstration: To engage with public art today—whether in a scholarly or a public forum—requires a “multidirectional method” attentive to how, within a single site, “multiple historical references reinforce one another and build connections” (14). Monumental Cares: Sites of History and Contemporary Art presents a significant intervention in the art history of public art that makes site-specificity its key term. The book is also a bold contribution to contemporary debates about monument activism. Widrich emphasizes that Monumental Cares is the product of both “research and public engagement” (15)—she is, amongst other public-facing… Full Review
October 4, 2023
Mark Staff Brandl
New York: Bloomsbury, 2023. 240 pp.; 21 b/w ills. $115.00 (9781350073838)
A worthy contribution in the still-growing efforts to de-silo theory from practice in writing and teaching about contemporary art, Mark Staff Brandl’s A Philosophy of Visual Metaphor in Contemporary Art is approachable and informal while being specific and sincere, and a tonal success for the way it loosens up and shakes out the rhetoric, jargon, and tropes common to so much scholarly writing about art. Visual tropes and metaphors (as opposed to literary ones) are central protagonists in Brandl’s philosophy of art, and they anchor his major propositions about the mechanics of visual communication and interpretation. They are not glib… Full Review
October 2, 2023