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

Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Eva Schlotheuber, Susan Marti, and Margot E. Fassler, eds.
2 vols. Düsseldorf: Aschendorff Verlag, 2016. 1440 pp. Hardcover $229.00 (9783402130728)
Upon first encounter, this book is impressive. The size, weight (nineteen pounds), and price of the two volumes of Liturgical Life and Latin Learning at Paradies bei Soest, 1300–1425, as well as the reputations of the authors, heighten reader expectation. Using an understudied liturgical manuscript of high quality as their focal point, this multidisciplinary team sets out to describe and analyze manuscript production and use at the Dominican monastery Paradies during the late Middle Ages. The library collection of this house, founded for nuns in the mid-thirteenth century and located close to the town of Soest, Germany… Full Review
July 29, 2019
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Estelle Blaschke
Leipzig, Germany: Spector Books, 2016. 224 pp. Paper €32.00 (9783944669632)
In the first line of her book Banking on Images: The Bettmann Archive and Corbis, Estelle Blaschke describes William Henry Fox Talbot not as an inventor of photography but, more precisely, as “the inventor of photographic reproducibility.” Today Talbot is firmly ensconced in photographic history as a creator and author of unique photographic objects and publications, which are now prized as material testaments to his individual aesthetic and technical contributions to a new medium. But the shifting perceptions of this position are illuminated when his work appears later in Blaschke’s book as an example of an image that, only… Full Review
July 26, 2019
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Margaret S. Graves
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. 352 pp.; 125 ills. Cloth £55.00 (9780190695910)
The elevation of quotidian objects through technical virtuosity has long been considered a quintessential feature of Islamic visual culture. Accordingly, historians of Islamic art have investigated objects’ potential to accrue shifting meanings, generate affiliations across cultures, and communicate complex rhetorical messages. Rarely, however, have medieval Islamic objects received treatment as constitutive—and even generative—elements of intellectual trends in their own right. Margaret S. Graves shifts this trend with an innovative study that recognizes the full cognitive potentialities of objects. Arts of Allusion focuses on a diverse set of objects from the eastern Mediterranean and Iranian plateau, produced from the ninth through… Full Review
July 25, 2019
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Gary Garrels, ed.
Exh. cat. San Francisco and New Haven, CT: SFMoMA and Yale University Press, 2018. 272 pp.; 230 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300234213)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 15, 2018–March 31, 2019; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, May 4–August 5, 2019; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 24, 2019–January 12, 2020
Alongside modernism’s medium specificity arose a historical distinction between “higher” and “lower” forms, attendant to those media. In such accounts, certain media are presented as agents of distraction and spectacle, others as vessels for sustained attention. That is: the oil painting or the TV set, presented in stark contrast. As scholars have dismantled such essentializing of medium, a critical preference for the subjectivities of modernism persists—a rapt and purified experience, even an ethical exhortation toward patience. Indeed, following such Kantian prejudices for the absorptive, one might easily devolve into what catalogue author Suzanne Hudson critiques as an “undue emphasis on… Full Review
July 24, 2019
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Katie Hornstein
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 208 pp.; 100 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780300228267)
In Picturing War in France, 1792–1856, Katie Hornstein examines four distinct phases of the history of the representation of warfare in France, beginning with works made during the revolutionary wars and the First Empire, through the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy, and culminating in the visual culture of the Crimean War of 1853–56. In four impressively researched and eloquently written main chapters, the author examines the viewing experience of contemporary warfare as mediated through paintings, prints, and photographs as well as technologies of mass spectacle with the overarching goal of highlighting “new forms of spectatorship that… Full Review
July 22, 2019
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Alison Isenberg
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. 432 pp.; 43 color ills.; 115 b/w ills.; 158 ills. Cloth $37.50 (9780691172545)
If books were buildings, then recent scholarship on urban development in the post–World War II United States would make a dense city indeed. And those works have offered an ever-widening range of assessments of the nature, shape, costs, and benefits of postwar redevelopment. Over the last decade, historians have looked beyond the roles of architects and planners; considered development practices that crossed municipal and national borders; and sought to escape analytical frameworks built around binaries of top-down versus bottom-up, large- versus small-scale, or modern versus historic. With Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the… Full Review
July 18, 2019
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Lynda Nead
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017. 416 pp.; 190 ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300214604)
In Britain, contradictions characterized the decade and a half following the Second World War. The country, looking to rebuild itself, kept one eye on tradition and continuity, and even resorted to a nostalgia for the Victorian past. The other eye looked toward a clean start, to the innovative, to the modern. In order to convey this entangled “structure of feeling,” Lynda Nead—explicitly building on the gloss that Raymond Williams gave this phrase—makes the brilliant choice of organizing the book The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain around two visual poles that exemplify this tug between past… Full Review
July 15, 2019
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Edward J. Sullivan
The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, vol. 4. New York and University Park, PA: The Frick Collection in association with Penn State University Press, 2018. 224 pp.; 48 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth (9780271079523)
Over the past few decades the arts and visual cultures of Latin America have become an exciting, rediscovered area of scholarly exploration, collecting, and marketing. The increased scholarly attention is evidenced by new academic and museum positions and events, from the creation of curatorial chairs dedicated to Latin American art to world-traveling exhibitions displaying the works of artists from diverse Latin American nations of the colonial through modern periods. These trends have paralleled a vibrant market of international collectors and auction houses that have focused their attention and catalogues on the arts from Central and South America, Mexico, and the… Full Review
July 12, 2019
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Jennifer Jolly
Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 352 pp.; 11 color ills.; 92 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781477314203)
In the collective memory of Mexicans, President Lázaro Cárdenas, who governed the country between 1934 and 1940, is considered an exemplar of nationalism: he is mythically associated with the steadfast defense of national assets such as oil, and with the struggles of peasants and indigenous people. As Verónica Vázquez Mantecón points out in a 2009 article, this mythology reveals Mexicans’ persistent desire for social justice. Having been an active participant in the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20 and later governor of the state of Michoacán before becoming president, General Cárdenas has social and political capital that has remained stable and has… Full Review
July 10, 2019
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Victoria and Albert Museum, London, September 8, 2018–February 24, 2019.
Following the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851, the V&A created a space for applied arts centered on industry and design, a space that serves as a conscious foil to traditional fine arts museums. Curators Marie Foulston and Kristian Volsing carried the spirit of this mission forward into the twenty-first century with their exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. The show revealed the innovative practices video game designers have developed over the past fifteen years, while simultaneously asserting the radical potential of the medium by focusing on politically motivated activist games. In addition to examining the sociopolitical impact of a… Full Review
July 8, 2019
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Steven L. Tuck
Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. 408 pp.; 375 color ills. Paperback $64.95 (9781444330267)
There are numerous textbooks on Roman art, but certain features ensure that A History of Roman Art stands out. This book is organized chronologically from the Etruscans to the reign of Constantine, and all the chapters (except for chapter 1) begin with a timeline showing major events and a brief historical overview, which helps students to understand the eras’ background. Throughout the book, Steven L. Tuck demonstrates how Roman art developed and discusses its influence. By examining the styles and techniques employed and developed in Roman art, Tuck tries to show how “the changes that occur in the art of… Full Review
July 3, 2019
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Sebastian Egenhofer
Trans James Gussen Zurich: Diaphanes, 2018. 208 pp.; 48 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9783037348857)
The translation of Sebastian Egenhofer’s Towards an Aesthetics of Production makes a work of great synthetic ambition available in English. It is at once a theory of modernism, an intervention into metaphysics, and an account of aesthetics under capital. In fact, the subject of Egenhofer’s book is synthesis itself: the means by which the semblance of a coherent world is produced from “pre-synthetic Becoming” (81) and art’s capacity for unconcealment. The book’s art historical horizon is European modernism and its consequences, with substantial case studies on Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Michael Asher, and Thomas Hirschhorn. Egenhofer’s wager is that only… Full Review
July 2, 2019
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Elizabeth Angelicoussis
2 vols. Munich: Hirmer, 2017. 728 pp.; 548 ills. Cloth $80.00 (9783777428178)
Elizabeth Angelicoussis’s new book is a work of extraordinary worth and of great interest for the field of ancient sculpture and the history of collections. Its focus is one of the most important eighteenth-century British collections, initiated in 1771 by William Petty-Fitzmaurice, the first Marquess of Lansdowne (1737–1805), and inspired by Gavin Hamilton (1723–1798), whose position as a brilliant art dealer and antiquities connoisseur is well-known. Angelicoussis’s detailed and fascinating reconstruction enables us to retrace the labyrinthine sequence of events that led to the creation of the Lansdowne collection, alongside the story of the construction and multiple transformations and adaptations… Full Review
July 1, 2019
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Campbell Price
New York: Thames & Hudson, 2018. 288 pp.; 250 color ills. Paper $17.95 (9780500294086)
Pocket Museum: Ancient Egypt by Campbell Price is the fourth book of Thames & Hudson’s series Pocket Museum, preceded by volumes devoted respectively to ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and the Vikings. The book brings together nearly two hundred ancient Egyptian artifacts, spanning more than five thousand years (ca. 5300 BCE–395 CE), scattered in museum collections all over the world. The volume attempts to outline and reconstruct the history, system of beliefs, and social practices of ancient Egyptian civilization through the analysis of its material culture. The great potential of this volume lies in its innovative approach, based on the examination… Full Review
June 27, 2019
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Peter Fane-Saunders
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 510 pp.; 8 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Hardcover $142.00 (9781107079861)
Peter Fane-Saunders’s book is an indispensable guide to the reception of Pliny’s Naturalis historia within the architectural theory and practice of Renaissance Italy. As a systematic exploration of antiquarian literature and treatises as well as drawn and built architecture, this volume aims to compensate for a chronic lack of attention to Pliny’s treatise (77–79 CE) by architectural historians, largely due to the dominant position occupied by another ancient authority, Vitruvius’s De architectura. Fane-Saunders gathers a broad corpus of excerpts, reuses, interpretations, and citations from a wide range of textual and visual sources referring to the Naturalis historia: from… Full Review
June 26, 2019
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