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

Tracey R. Bashkoff
Exh. cat. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2019. 244 pp.; 220 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780892075430)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 12, 2018–April 23, 2019
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition of Swedish modern artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, was a long-overdue American showcase of af Klint’s innovations. Organized by Director of Collections and Senior Curator Tracey R. Bashkoff, Paintings for the Future notably highlighted the spiritualist beliefs that informed af Klint’s practice, as well as those of peers like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Yet, while the show and catalog successfully celebrated af Klint’s monumental compositions, both fell short of their goal: the integration of af Klint within canonical European aesthetic modernism. This weakness was as… Full Review
November 6, 2019
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Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh
Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019. 436 pp.; 26 ills. Cloth $30.00 (9780804790444)
Genocide, that most horrific of crimes, does not leave untouched any fragment of human identity. Yet for genocide to succeed, it must not only extinguish individual human lives—it must erase all traces of the presence of a people, of a people’s identity. While we often focus on the human subject as victim of genocide, the vehemence with which cultural atrocities are perpetrated, and the chilling consistency with which they occur in tandem with the elimination of human lives, makes clear that art and material culture matters in the dismantling of what it means to be human. Long before Hitler… Full Review
November 5, 2019
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Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh, eds.
Visual and Media Histories. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015. 270 pp. Hardcover $140.00 (9781138796010)
Rebecca M. Brown
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 20 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (9780295999944)
These two recent studies of museological and display histories in/of South Asia stand out in the fields of both art history and museum studies. The rather intriguing title of Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh’s edited volume, No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying, is taken from a signboard at the entrance to an Indian museum that gives the code of conduct to which visitors are expected to adhere. Assumedly, the sign is intended for “unsophisticated” viewers whose everyday worlds are not consonant with the social codes that the sign specifies. The reversal of this inconsonance is part and parcel of… Full Review
November 1, 2019
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Macarena Gómez-Barris
American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. 160 pp. Paper $18.95 (9780520296671)
In the conclusion to Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Americas, Macarena Gómez-Barris exhorts the reader to “look beyond electoral politics [of the nation-state] to strengthen already existing networks of possibility” (109). In this brief yet provocative study, she provides the reader with a model of analysis that shores up South-South linkages, privileges queer and indigenous perspectives, and denaturalizes national boundaries. Gómez-Barris champions the interdisciplinary field of “Transnational Americas Studies” rather than the post–Cold War area studies approach. In doing so, she allows the natural alliances and shared histories of the Americas to come to… Full Review
October 31, 2019
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Joanna Grabski
African Expressive Cultures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 328 pp.; 57 color ills. Paper $20.00 (9780253026057)
Art World City is a beautiful book. The photographs, most of which are by the author, are stunning, and all are in color thanks to support from the CAA Millard Meiss Publication Fund. In a book whose purpose is to situate a major international city and its artists into a complex and interdependent relationship, the quality of the images alone makes the argument for the symbiotic relationship between artists, the cityscape, and the visual consumption of culture in Dakar, Senegal. Each of the six chapters stands alone as a succinct inquiry into an aspect that author Joanna Grabski identifies on… Full Review
October 30, 2019
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C. D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 432 pp.; 437 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300185003)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 3, 2012–January 6, 2013; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, February 3–May 5, 2013
[See the multimedia media review on Scalar.] Thanks to a generous grant from the Mellon-funded Alliance for Networking Visual Culture in 2013, caa.reviews was able to complete a pilot project using the Scalar multimedia digital platform to create a “book” permitting its readers to experience virtually the 2012–13 exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay (in its showing at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas). This fall, caa.reviews revisits the breathtaking Bernini exhibition by highlighting this multimedia project. The project features a number of elements, including an introductory essay; a video walkthrough that permits website visitors to experience… Full Review
October 25, 2019
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Dorothy C. Wong
Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2018. 366 pp.; 12 color ills.; 125 b/w ills. Cloth $52.00 (9789814722599)
Students of East Asian art are often told that the “Tang International Buddhist Art Style” or “International Buddhist Art Style” begins when the hips of Buddhist deities sway gracefully to one side (1). The voluptuous yet narrow-waisted bodies of bodhisattvas standing in contrapposto with an Indian flavor are seen as a hallmark of Chinese Buddhist art in the Tang dynasty (618–907). This figural type can be found across Japan and Korea by the eighth century, but what exactly is this “International Buddhist Art Style”? The term is regularly invoked in introductory East Asian art curricula, yet it has, surprisingly, almost… Full Review
October 25, 2019
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Kathleen Bickford Berzock, ed.
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 312 pp.; 192 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691182681)
Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, January 26–July 21, 2019; Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, September 21, 2019–February 23, 2020; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, April 8–November 29, 2020
The project of recentering histories is at the core of both the exhibition and catalog Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa. When art historians speak of recentering, the contemporary art world, biennials, and online media spring to mind quite readily, but shifting perceptions can seem Sisyphean in earlier time periods. Bringing the discursive practice of recentering to fruition in an exhibition of the medieval world requires extensive institutional collaboration and wherewithal. The labor required expands exponentially when one is dealing with an entire continent, namely Africa, that is still portrayed and… Full Review
October 24, 2019
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Joshua Rivkin
Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2018. 496 pp.; 22 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (9781612197180)
“This, dear reader, is not a biography. This is something, I hope, stranger and more personal,” writes Joshua Rivkin at the outset of Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (10). “More personal” turns out to mean “more about the author than the subject.” The first-person pronoun abounds; the first of many occurrences of “I” is very early indeed (xiii). If “more personal” is also meant to include the reader as a personal addressee of the text, this too is prominent. “We” joins “I” throughout, as does “you” and repeated entreaties to the “dear reader.” What of “stranger”? The… Full Review
October 21, 2019
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Norma Broude, ed.
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 328 pp.; 8 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (9781501342509)
Gauguin’s Challenge: New Perspectives after Postmodernism, edited by Norma Broude, is an important and intriguing book published on the threshold of a worldwide examination and redefinition of social mores concerning, among other injustices, the historical depiction of indigenous and colonized women in Western art. Broude’s chosen texts both precede and prepare for, but mostly fall short of, current efforts by many to explore Paul Gauguin’s perceived status as a social pariah, an arrogant white colonialist, and a predator of young Polynesian women. For decades, many shrugged off his behavior as that of “a man of his times.” Then, in… Full Review
October 18, 2019
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New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts, July 2, 2019–May 15, 2020
Dutch and Flemish marine paintings have tended to be a niche subject, often subsumed within landscapes, left to specialists, or referenced with a few stars, such as Jan Porcellis, Simon de Vlieger, and Willem van de Velde the Younger. In Seymour Slive’s still-standard survey Dutch Painting 1600–1800 (Yale University Press, 1995), the chapter on landscape is three times longer than that on marine subjects. Such an imbalance contrasts with the large number of prestigious commissioned seascapes, often of ceremonial embarkations or naval battles, that commanded high prices during the seventeenth century. The technicalities of boat building, navigating, and weather are… Full Review
October 17, 2019
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Mariah Proctor-Tiffany
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019. 232 pp.; 28 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271081120)
In the summer of 1315, Clémence de Hongrie sailed from her childhood home in Naples to marry King Louis X of France. Louis died a year later, leaving Clémence a pregnant widow, and five months after that their infant son Jean also died; Clémence lived the rest of her life as a dowager queen at the French court. On October 5, 1328, in anticipation of her death, she dictated her testament. And after her death on October 13 of that year, her executors, representatives of the king, and a group of goldsmiths gathered to inventory and value her possessions as… Full Review
October 15, 2019
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Asato Ikeda
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2018. 144 pp.; 33 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780824872120)
In The Politics of Painting: Fascism and Japanese Art during the Second World War, Asato Ikeda considers four artists who, she argues, promoted fascist ideology through seemingly nonmilitaristic paintings made in the 1930s and 1940s. Through an examination of the work of Yokoyama Taikan (1868–1958), Yasuda Yukihiko (1884–1978), Uemura Shōen (1875–1949), and Fujita Tsuguharu (1886–1968), Ikeda rethinks conceptions of fascism and its manifestation in the Japanese visual arts, as well as these artists’ relation to fascism internationally. Ikeda argues that Japanese fascism emerged as a response to the “problem” of modernity: whereas during the Meiji period (1868–1912), the state… Full Review
October 11, 2019
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Octavian Esanu, ed.
New York: Routledge, 2018. 156 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $155.00 (9781138563834)
The first time a nude was included in an exhibition in Lebanon, it caused quite a stir. Whereas young Lebanese painters who had studied in Paris were familiar with painting nude models, they found it difficult to show their paintings to the conservative Lebanese public upon their return home. Lebanon—The Artist’s View: 200 Years of Painting, exhibition catalog (18) In her pathbreaking 2010 article “Necessary Nudes: Hadatha and Mu‘asara in the Lives of Modern Lebanese,” included here, Kirsten Scheid contends that, contrary to common assumption, artists in Mandate-era Beirut were producing nudes in the beaux arts academic style… Full Review
October 9, 2019
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Anthea Callen
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 272 pp.; 212 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300112948)
Anthea Callen’s earlier monographs established her as a leading expert on the facture and material history of Impressionism. Her new book turns away from the physicalities of canvas weaves and palette knives, parasols and portable paint boxes, to address a very different kind of “artists’ material”—naked human bodies, dead and living—and the academies where artists were taught to represent them. The basic insight that grounds her inquiry is simple but fundamental: the pedagogical system established across the Euro-American world by the start of the nineteenth century, modeled on the Florentine Accademia del Disegno and Roman Accademia di San Luca… Full Review
October 8, 2019
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