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

Emily C. Burns
Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West, vol. 29. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018. 248 pp.; 121 color ills.; 14 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806160030 )
As the title suggests, Emily C. Burns’s Transnational Frontiers: The American West in France is an evocative look at the “transnational frontiers” where visual art and cultural performance intersected alongside notions of identity, nation, and belonging for French citizens, American image-makers, and Native American performers between 1865 and 1914. This is a powerful study that focuses on different conceptions, depictions, and deployments of “the American West,” which Burns rightly notes is “a slippery concept” when considered within an international setting. By tracing the circulation of visual and material culture of the American West in France at that time, Burns considers… Full Review
January 3, 2020
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Kıvanç Kılınç and Mohammad Gharipour, eds.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019. 336 pp.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $38.00 (9780253039859)
Social housing constructed in Middle Eastern cities since the 1940s has been presented as a solution to several pressing problems, from the crisis of slums and inadequate accommodations for industrial workers to the urban segregation and inequality sustained by colonial housing policies. Social Housing in the Middle East: Architecture, Urban Development, and Transnational Modernity, edited by Kıvanç Kılınç and Mohammad Gharipour, discusses the conditions that call for social housing as well as the societal ramifications of the domestic designs that engage with global “transnational modernity” in urban planning and services. Each region discussed in the book—Tunisia and Egypt in… Full Review
January 2, 2020
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Paul R. Davis and Georges Petitjean
Exh. cat. Houston: Menil Collection, 2019. 20 pp.; 11 color ills. Paper
Menil Collection, Houston, September 13, 2019–February 2, 2020
The undulating dotted lines of Mamultjunkunya (2009; pictured at left), by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri of the Pintupi language group, depict a site that appears, within the painting, to be in constant motion: Lake Mackay. This salt lake “features prominently” in the Tingari ceremonial cycle of Tjapaltjarri’s Western Desert region (15). Through song and dance, the ceremony recounts the ancestors’ fashioning of their “Country.” Within the gallery, Mamultjunkunya’s ripples muddle the eye-brain connection and, by extension, destabilize a sense of seeing and perhaps even of knowing. To an extent, the painting may be understood as a metaphor for one argument emerging… Full Review
December 20, 2019
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Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, January 19–July 6, 2019; Diboll Gallery, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, September 26, 2019–January 19, 2020
Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana was a richly textured exhibition on the gender-specific effects of incarceration on cisgender and trans women in the state. The show was centered around a group of over thirty currently and formerly incarcerated women whose life stories formed the basis of visual artworks and music created by a diverse group of artists based in and beyond Louisiana. The works in the show ranged in style and included sculpture, painting, video, installation, photography, and original music played throughout the galleries. Participating artists were selected by museum staff and community stakeholders. The Newcomb Art Museum collaborated with… Full Review
December 18, 2019
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Michael A. Brown, ed.
Exh. cat. San Diego and Madrid: San Diego Museum of Art in association with Ediciones El Viso, 2019. 200 pp.; 100 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780937108604)
San Diego Museum of Art, May 18–September 2, 2019
Art and Empire: The Golden Age of Spain at the San Diego Museum of Art was an exceptional exhibition overall, from the quality of the artworks (one-third of them from the San Diego Museum of Art) to its bilingual wall text and even the use of augmented reality. The art of “Golden Age Spain” brings with it many entrenched and long-standing assumptions, such as the revered status of seventeenth-century Spanish painting and the artists whose names have become associated with this period: Diego Velázquez, Jusepe de Ribera, and Francisco de Zurbarán among them. Art and Empire attempted to redefine our… Full Review
December 16, 2019
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Christopher P. Heuer
Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2019. 256 pp.; 69 b/w ills. Cloth $32.95 (9781942130147)
When the artist Olafur Eliasson, with the help of geologist Minik Rosing, hauled eighty tons of Greenland ice to Place du Panthéon for Ice Watch Paris (2015), releasing thirty tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so that Parisians and anyone who had traveled to the city (some for the United Nations Climate Change Conference), burning their own quantum of fossil fuel along the way, could feel they were watching the melting of our polar ice caps, he channeled the Arctic’s cold waters into a river of his spectators’ warm tears. One thing Christopher Heuer does in his timely Into… Full Review
December 12, 2019
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Portland Art Museum, Oregon, March 30–October 13, 2019
Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Actor Prints was a delightful exhibition of a wide variety of Japanese woodblock prints, many on view for the first time. The prints were organized chronologically for the most part, beginning with the eighteenth century and ending with the twentieth. The choices of the curator, Jeannie Kenmotsu (assistant curator of Japanese art with the Japan Foundation), were excellent for a showcasing of numerous famous woodblock-print artists and their actor prints (yakusha-e) from the Kabuki theater celebrity culture. Detailed museum labels provided information for the uninformed viewer as well as specifics for the knowledgeable audience… Full Review
December 11, 2019
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Sasha Suda and Kirk Nickel, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Prestel, 2019. 296 pp.; 183 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9783791358444)
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, April 6–September 8, 2019; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, October 12, 2019–January 5, 2020
The Early Rubens exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) is surely a visual feast to behold. With works drawn from a dizzying oeuvre that, given its prodigiousness and complexity, demands serious distilling, the exhibition succeeds in tackling key aspects of the monumental artistic output of Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) during his early mature period in a strikingly condensed and accessible manner. Surely, this is no small feat; for to paraphrase the erudite Rubens, one of the artist’s greatest ambitions was to provide… Full Review
December 10, 2019
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British Museum, London, November 29, 2018–August 4, 2019
“Understandings of history are rarely agreed and always shifting,” began the wall text that opened the British Museum’s Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives, in an effort to signal the exhibition’s investigation into the fraught legacy of James Cook (1728–1779), explorer and British Royal Navy captain. Rather than rehearsing well-known and tired narratives of Captain Cook as the heroic explorer and navigator, this exhibition attempted to reframe Cook’s legacy from the perspective of the people and places he impacted with his Pacific voyages. Thus, historical artifacts from Cook’s voyages were juxtaposed with artworks by contemporary Pacific Islanders that reveal their… Full Review
December 9, 2019
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Mary D. Sheriff
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. 416 pp.; 14 color ills.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226483108)
This book by the late Mary D. Sheriff is a study of islands in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. Not just any islands, but islands, real and fictive, ruled by “beguiling women who captivate men through both literal and figurative enchantments” (2). These enchantresses promise love and pleasure to the men who arrive on their shores, but their aim is to dominate, corrupt, and emasculate. If manly virtue is to be restored, their charms have to be resisted and their island domains conquered. The trope of the enchanted island came to ancien-régime France by way of a canon of ancient and… Full Review
December 6, 2019
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Peter Mack and Robert Williams, eds.
Studies in Art Historiography. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015. 204 pp.; 16 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. Cloth $130.00 (9781472442789)
Michael Baxandall, who died in 2008 just shy of his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of a handful of postwar scholars who were quickly recognized as some of art history’s greats. A string of classic texts and a restless, searching expansion of his range from the Italian Renaissance to the Northern one and into the eighteenth century, combined with a firmly original scholarly viewpoint, afforded him the status of a deep thinker who merits careful study. During Baxandall’s lifetime, Adrian Rifkin edited a volume, About Michael Baxandall (Wiley-Blackwell, 1999), subjecting his methods to scrutiny. The book under review was published in… Full Review
December 6, 2019
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José Esparza Chong Cuy, ed.
Exh. cat. Chicago and New York: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2019. 144 pp.; 100 ills. Paper $25.00 (9783791358390)
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 13–August 25, 2019
The latest iteration of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)’s Ascendant Artist series featured the Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade (born 1982). This series has the virtue of occasionally highlighting younger artists from the Global South, even as the museum itself trends more toward blockbuster shows that lionize designers and musicians rather than advanced art (to name a few, David Bowie Is, 2014–15; Takashi Murakami, 2017; and Virgil Abloh, 2019). Andrade’s North American reputation rests primarily on the film O Peixe (The fish; 2017), a haunting parody of the ethnographic gaze acquired by the MCA… Full Review
December 5, 2019
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Margo Natalie Crawford
New Black Studies Series. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2017. 280 pp.; 35 b/w ills. Paperback $28.00 (9780252082498)
Margo Natalie Crawford’s titular concept in Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics is oceanic: it is multifaceted and much encompassing. As the introduction explains, black post-blackness is an aesthetics of expressions of free self-determination, of a future blackness that shapes the present still. It is a mood and a shape of time, and also an understanding of that cultural mood and temporal shape as interdependent and in flux.  More concretely, Black Post-Blackness seeks to correct reductive constructions that situate twenty-first-century art and literature by artists and writers such as Glenn Ligon, Claudia Rankine, Kerry James Marshall, and… Full Review
November 26, 2019
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Christopher R. Lakey
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 240 pp.; 36 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300232141)
Christopher Lakey’s book, Sculptural Seeing: Relief, Optics, and the Rise of Perspective in Medieval Italy, makes a bold if ultimately problematic argument: Lakey suggests that the origins of perspective in Renaissance art are to be found in medieval relief sculpture, that the Albertian system of perspective evolved from the practices and concepts of medieval stone sculptors beginning with the revival of architectural sculpture associated with Romanesque art, around 1100. The book’s argument, however, is like a thought experiment in which it is necessary to accept the hypothesis as a premise to sustain the conclusion. Lakey aims to prove that… Full Review
November 25, 2019
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Chanchal B. Dadlani
New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2019. 232 pp.; 97 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300233179)
Chanchal B. Dadlani’s From Stone to Paper adds an exciting new chapter to a growing body of scholarship exploring the arts and architecture of Asia beyond the “canonical” limit of the seventeenth century by considering the 150 years of the “long eighteenth century,” which, in this case, connects the heyday of the Mughal empire with the advent of the British Raj. Monuments, urban spaces, building practices, and modes of theorizing and representing architecture are examined “on their own terms,” building a case for the primacy of internal forces in shaping the concept of a “Mughal style” in architecture. Crisp, engaging… Full Review
November 22, 2019
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