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

Octavian Esanu
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2021. 288 pp.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth £80.00 (9781526158000)
It has now been some time since historians and critics began to seriously attempt a definition of contemporary art understood not simply as the art produced today but as a historical phenomenon. Beginning in the second half of the 2000s, scholars including Terry Smith, Amelia Jones, Peter Osborne, and Richard Meyer offered analyses of this phenomenon, exploring its relationship to modernism, its philosophical underpinnings, and its aesthetic characteristics—insofar as aesthetic considerations can still be considered to play a role in its definition. Octavian Esanu’s The Postsocialist Contemporary serves as both a deepening of these previous efforts and a methodological and… Full Review
February 16, 2022
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Joseph C. Williams
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2020. 150 pp.; 95 b/w ills. Paper €79.00 (9782503581088)
Reading Joseph C. Williams’s Architecture of Disjuncture feels both like stepping back into familiar architectural-historical territory and peering forward to the exhilarating advances heralding the discipline’s future; in this sense, it is very much a product of the current slow but inexorable transitioning of the study of medieval architecture to the digital age. The book is devoted to the meticulous scrutiny of a single building, the Romanesque cathedral of Molfetta, Apulia, Italy, via the implementation of a diverse array of research methodologies ranging from the hands-on examination of the building fabric with the aid of modern technology to the reconsideration… Full Review
February 14, 2022
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Lorenz Böninger
I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021. 224 pp. Cloth $49.95 (9780674251137)
The title of this study of early Florentine book printing calls to mind two classic texts: Martin Wackernagel’s The World of the Florentine Renaissance Artist: Projects and Patrons, Workshop and Art Market (1938) and Lauro Martines’s The Social World of the Florentine Humanists, 1390–1460 (1963). All three books describe the conditions of cultural production in quattrocento Florence in the context of government structures, family ties, trade alliances, innovation, and patronage. Artisans, merchants, and humanists emerge as members of social groups that shaped their lives and professions. Lorenz Böninger’s study contextualizes early book printing in Florence as an investment opportunity that… Full Review
February 11, 2022
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Amanda Phillips
Oakland: University of California Press, 2021. 360 pp.; 69 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520303591)
Amanda Phillips’s Sea Change: Ottoman Textiles between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean is a welcome intervention in the fields of Ottoman material culture and global textile studies. Building on surveys of Ottoman silk and weaving such as Nurhan Atasoy, Walter B. Denny, Louise W. Mackie, and Hülya Tezcan’s İPEK: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets (Azimuth Editions, 2001), Phillips delves deep into the silk-weaving industry in the early modern Ottoman empire (ca. 1400–1800), informed by expert readings of archival sources and material evidence alike. Two chapters in each of the book’s three parts are framed roughly chronologically and thematically, with… Full Review
February 9, 2022
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Ory Bartal
Studies in Design and Material Culture. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2020. 248 pp.; 57 color ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781526139979)
Tracing the development and transformation of Japanese design amidst larger social contexts—such as rapid economic growth and the shift in Japan’s standing within the world after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1970 Osaka World Exposition, the first world’s fair held in Asia—is challenging. Ory Bartal takes on the task of understanding this development by examining design as a form of protest and identity making that addressed social issues linked to both global and local concerns for Japanese designers and consumers in the final decades of the twentieth century. Bartal’s research on Japanese design and visual culture culminated in his… Full Review
February 4, 2022
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Yi Gu
Harvard East Asian Monographs. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. 320 pp.; 67 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. $75.00 (9780674244443)
Yi Gu’s Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting provides a revisionist history of Chinese landscape painting from the early 1910s to the late 1960s. Foregrounding the importance of visual perception to modern Chinese art, Gu locates an “ocular turn” in landscape painting circa 1911 that shifted premodern Chinese painters’ preoccupation with the literary to a modern artistic subjectivity anchored in visual perception. This ascendancy of vision occurred when Republican-period painters, anxious to establish themselves as modern subjects, embraced open-air painting as a practice that underscored direct observation, linear perspective, and a pseudoscientific means to view the world. Continuing to… Full Review
February 2, 2022
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Anna Walker and Laura Mott, eds.
Exh. cat. Stuttgart and Houston: Arnoldsche Art Publishers in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2020. 143 pp.; 91 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783897905962)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, July 25–September 19, 2021; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI, October 30, 2021–March 20, 2022
The Cranbrook Art Museum is a fitting home for this retrospective exhibition of the decades-long explorations of material, color, and form by the Colombian artist Olga de Amaral (b. 1932 in Bogotá). The exhibition was organized by Anna Walker, assistant curator of decorative arts, craft, and design at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where the show originated, and Laura Mott, senior curator of contemporary art and design at Cranbrook Art Museum. It was here, at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1954, that Olga de Amaral first tried her hand at weaving. As she describes in a recent interview… Full Review
January 28, 2022
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Makeda Best
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2020. 200 pp.; 84 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (9780271086095)
The scholarship on nineteenth-century photography has long been preoccupied with nationality, origin stories, and technical innovations. Makeda Best charts a different path. In her important new book, we are introduced to Alexander Gardner not as Civil War or western-survey documentarian, not as the favorite portraitist of President Abraham Lincoln or the force behind Mathew Brady’s studio, and not as entrepreneur or experimenter or defender of intellectual property. He may be all of these things, but he is first a Scottish liberal deeply involved in the global reform movements of the mid-nineteenth century, a vocal advocate of workers’ rights, and a… Full Review
January 26, 2022
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Maya Stanfield-Mazzi
Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2021. 432 pp.; 186 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780268108052)
Any art historian who has conducted field research at early modern churches in Latin America and the southwestern United States knows that ecclesiastical textiles constitute an important portion of the Spanish colonial patrimony preserved in such sites. Yet these pieces are for the most part underappreciated and understudied, with very few scholarly works throwing light on their technical, aesthetic, and functional qualities. Maya Stanfield-Mazzi’s Clothing the New World Church provides the first in-depth and hemispheric study of such pieces, a good portion of which reveal the ways in which Native American ideas and practices intertwined with European crafts and beliefs… Full Review
January 21, 2022
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Diana Tuite, ed.
Waterville, ME and New Haven: Colby College Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2021. 216 pp.; 155 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300253368)
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME, July 20, 2021–January 9, 2022; Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, February 10–May 15, 2022; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, June 18–September 11, 2022; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, October 9, 2022–January 8, 2023
Bob Thompson (1937–1966), an artist from Louisville, Kentucky, who participated in the Provincetown and New York art worlds of the late 1950s before embarking on extensive periods spent in London, Paris, Ibiza, and Rome, lived a brief but prolific life as a painter. He died in 1966 at the age of twenty-nine. Thompson’s work, with its distinctive motifs (a hatted man, mysterious birds, figures set in lush and ambiguous chromatic landscapes, and transformed quotations of art historical paintings), flowered in the eight years This House Is Mine covers, from 1958 until 1966. The show takes its title from a small… Full Review
January 19, 2022
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Anne Derbes
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2020. 384 pp.; 188 color ills. Cloth €150.00 (9782503579689)
The publication of Anne Derbes’s lavishly illustrated book on the baptistery of Padua is a welcome and timely contribution, both for this building and the city. Recently inserted in the UNESCO World Heritage List (Padova Urbs Picta) because of its late fourteenth-century frescoes by Giusto de’Menabuoi (1320–1391), the baptistery is now free of scaffolding following the two-year restoration of its wall paintings and altarpiece. Fina Buzzacarini’s tomb canopy has also been restored, allowing us to distinguish between carved elements that were subsequently painted and painting that mimicks carving. Indeed an observer from the ground can see that only… Full Review
January 14, 2022
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Irina Aristarkhova
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 248 pp.; 11 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781517908973)
Arrested Welcome is a thematically organized set of case studies on the strategies of hospitality in contemporary artists’ projects. Aristarkhova defines “hospitality” as “the practice of welcoming others” (xv), with collective potential extending from individual encounters. According to Aristarkhova, acts and forms of hospitality are used by artists “to bring back its original promise of a democratic, indiscriminate, unconditional welcome” (65). At the same time, Aristarkhova is clear about the problems with extrapolating social change from individual artistic practices. She notes that “individual welcoming acts do not solve big structural problems” (xviii), remarks that “it is problematic to act out… Full Review
January 12, 2022
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M. Elizabeth Boone
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 272 pp.; 20 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (9780271083315)
In the past decade more scholars have abandoned an understanding of history based on contemporary political borders to embrace an understanding centering on the historical entanglement of empires. Such entanglement has resulted in our present power relations among nations in the Americas. Art historian M. Elizabeth Boone’s “The Spanish Element in Our Nationality” is an example of this shift in historical approaches, which complements work by scholars such as April Lee Hatfield, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Katherine Manthorne, and Maggie M. Cao. More significantly, with its emphasis on the history of world’s fairs, this book creates a narrative where technology, art, science… Full Review
January 6, 2022
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Robin Schuldenfrei
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018. 336 pp.; 74 color ills.; 126 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691175126)
In a reappraisal of German modernism, Robin Schuldenfrei’s Luxury and Modernism: Architecture and the Object in Germany 1900–1933 highlights issues of taste, class, and luxury in modern German design and interiors, ultimately underscoring a necessary distinction between objects actually suited to mass production and handcrafted objects made with a modern, mass-produced aesthetic. Schuldenfrei examines the tensions of the Bauhaus, which was founded on progressive principles but ultimately fell short of producing financially accessible products, instead reaching an elite class of consumers. The book’s introduction considers the retouching of a seemingly prosaic photograph taken by Lucia Moholy for the 1930 book… Full Review
January 4, 2022
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Diana Seave Greenwald
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021. 256 pp.; 55 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Cloth $42.00 (9780691192451)
Diana Greenwald is trained as both an art historian and an economist, and in Painting by Numbers: Data-Driven Histories of Nineteenth-Century Art, she aims to bring the methods and explanatory force of both disciplines together in the analysis of nineteenth-century art. As suggested by the subtitle, the book is driven primarily by a methodological call to the field. In this, it is analogous to Matthew Jockers’s Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (University of Illinois Press, 2017), which challenged literary scholars to use computational methods to enlarge the scale of literary history from the micro to the macro, moving… Full Review
December 21, 2021
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