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

Ittai Weinryb, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2018. 372 pp.; 250 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300222968)
Bard Graduate Center Gallery, New York, September 14, 2018–January 6, 2019
The exhibition Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place revealed the moving, sometimes playful yearning that accompanies a primal desire to be in the company of the supernatural. Curated by Ittai Weinryb, the Bard Graduate Center Gallery exhibition posited that this desire to visualize or materialize the miraculous is a practice that has existed in all periods and places. It featured objects ranging from Etruscan terra-cottas to Mexican votive paintings to Bavarian and Italian wax casts of individual body parts to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle made for the Vietnam War Memorial. Weinryb asserted in the wall text that votive… Full Review
October 3, 2019
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Tijana Vujošević
Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2019. 208 pp.; 72 b/w ills. Paper £20.00 (9781526114884)
Soviet architectural modernism is characterized sometimes as unrealizably utopian, and other times as an expanse of drab housing blocks that failed to take account of their human users. Tijana Vujošević begins Modernism and the Making of the Soviet New Man by noting that neither view is exactly true, and further that the truth was, at least arguably, precisely the opposite of both: a radical transformation of the built environment was in fact realized in the first decades of the Soviet Union, and the most extraordinary aspect of early Soviet design was its attention to how its human inhabitants would themselves… Full Review
October 2, 2019
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Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford, and Rebecca Zorach, eds.
Second to None: Chicago Stories. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017. 376 pp. Paper $35.00 (9780810135932)
In the summer of 1967, as the first national conference on Black Power convened in Newark, New Jersey, and the city of Chicago awaited the unveiling of a monumental sculpture by Picasso in the Chicago Loop, a group of artists—painters, photographers, and graphic designers affiliated with the recently formed Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC)—created a mural on Chicago’s South Side, at the corner of Forty-Third and Langley. The mural, which was unveiled in late August, featured images of prominent African Americans grouped into a variety of professional categories: statesmen, religious leaders, rhythm and blues musicians, jazz musicians… Full Review
September 30, 2019
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Stephanie Schrader, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. 160 pp.; 138 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9781606065525)
Getty Center, Los Angeles, March 13–June 24, 2018
Imagine an art history of either South Asia or Europe where Bichitr (active circa 1615–50) and Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–69) share the same discursive space. The cover of Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India provokes us to envision precisely that: an art history where a painting and a drawing of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan by two contemporaneous artists—one from South Asia and the other from Europe—can coevally reside alongside each other. In a way, the cover functions as an introduction to the larger art historical intervention that the exhibition catalog aims to perform: namely, investigating questions of equivalence… Full Review
September 27, 2019
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Celeste-Marie Bernier
Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. 344 pp.; 99 color ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780520286535)
This welcome new volume surveys some fifty diaspora artists working in the United States and United Kingdom and more than 150 of their works. It elaborates the author’s larger project of developing a critical bibliography that alights on both contexts and, in so doing, seeks to articulate a working “Black lexicon of liberation,” primarily by drawing on the words of (and well-chosen objects by) the artists in question. In this sense, Stick to the Skin occupies a place somewhere between textbook and sourcebook. Indeed, rather than seeking to have the final word on contemporary diaspora art, Celeste-Marie Bernier openly posits… Full Review
September 25, 2019
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Alpesh Kantilal Patel
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2017. 272 pp. Cloth £80.00 (9781784992545)
Rethinking Art’s Histories, the Manchester University Press publication series launched in 2010, carries a substantial catalog of unconventional and experimental scholarship that breaks away from period- and geography-centered approaches to art history. Alpesh Kantilal Patel’s Productive Failure: Writing Queer Transnational South Asian Art Histories is a valuable contribution to this growing body of literature that attempts to expand the parameters of art history and its constituent subfields, employing “affirmative criticality” and “productive failure” as methods to produce a more ethical, entangled, and transparent practice of writing (art) history. The title of the book provides a sense of this messier, expanded… Full Review
September 24, 2019
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Wolfgang Drechsler, ed.
Exh. cat. Livorno, Italy: Sillabe, 2017. 152 pp. €20.00 (9788883479465)
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, March 25–June 25, 2017
Maria Lassnig: Woman Power, curated by Wolfgang Drechsler and displayed in the Andito degli Angiolini at Palazzo Pitti, showcased twenty-five artworks by the Austrian painter Maria Lassnig (1914–2014). The paintings that were in the exhibition, which are either self-portraits or still-life pictures, examine the complex phenomenology of the material relationships between human flesh, animals such as tigers and birds, and diverse objects including scissors, musical instruments, plastic wrap, and fresh vegetables. Drechsler’s selection of twenty-five paintings spanning from 1960 to 2010 also traces Lassnig’s interest in using both abstraction and figuration to paint the here and now. As she… Full Review
September 19, 2019
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Tom Cubbin
Cultural Histories of Design. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 248 pp.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth $114.00 (9781350021990)
In the 1960s the Soviet government undertook a series of political liberalizations leading to a brief period of economic growth, relative intellectual freedom, and improved standards of living. This was Khrushchev’s “Thaw,” a time infused with excitement about the imminent completion of the “construction of communism,” paired with the even more audacious “creative transformation of the world” (Petr Vail and Aleksandr Genis, 60e: Mir Sovetskogo cheloveka, as cited in Cubbin, 29). In this atmosphere of liberated scholarly and artistic thinking, Soviet post–World War II design practices emerged, including the work of the Central Educational and Experimental Studio (the Senezh… Full Review
September 18, 2019
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Tanya Sheehan
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. 216 pp.; 80 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780271081106)
In her compelling social history of photography, Study in Black and White: Photography, Race, Humor, Tanya Sheehan reaches beyond photographs and photographers to examine humor books, minstrel shows, satirical illustrations, advertising, and print culture to reveal the ways that early photographic discourses using humor constructed concepts of race and photographic practice. Across five chapters of case studies, Sheehan demonstrates how written, performed, and sketched humor about photography and jokes made with photographs became avenues for the dehumanization of black and indigenous peoples as well as a route to forge and assert whiteness. Continuing a discursive inquiry into early… Full Review
September 17, 2019
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Martino Stierli and Vladimir Kulić, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2018. 228 pp.; 150 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781633450516)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia 1948–1980 was an archive of radical potential. The highly anticipated architecture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) included over four hundred drawings, plans, photographs, models, and film reels related to the construction, ideological and physical, of the second Yugoslavia (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). Unlike in MoMA’s previous architecture exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 (2015), which used MoMA’s own collection to supply the majority of objects on display, the materials showcased in Toward a Concrete Utopia were the result of extraordinary coordination by the curators and researchers to assemble… Full Review
September 13, 2019
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Lonnie G. Bunch III
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2019. 288 pp.; 20 ills. Cloth $29.95 (9781588346681)
“I wanted a museum that was a tool to help people find a useful and useable history that would enable them to become better citizens; a museum that would explore and wrestle with issues of today and tomorrow as well as yesterday,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch III in A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump (9). Bunch wrote the passage while he was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s nineteenth and newest museum. Then, in the months leading up to the book’s publication and just two… Full Review
September 12, 2019
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Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 540 pp.; 450 color ills. Cloth $48.00 (9780253032058)
In Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla explore Brazilian religious-themed art rooted in European- and African-based faiths. The authors limit their study to the northeastern states of Bahia and Pernambuco, where “Native, European, and African cultures first fused into something new and Brazilian” (2). Their examination demonstrates that artists continue to draw inspiration from both the European- and African-originated sacred subject matter and that the profuse resultant works have become “markers of national identity” with local, national, and international appeal (2). Throughout the text Glassie and Shukla highlight the transformation… Full Review
September 10, 2019
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Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, eds.
Exh. cat. Warsaw: Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, 2018. 330 pp.; 16 color ills.; 52 b/w ills. Paper $29.00 (9788364177446)
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, February 20–June 1, 2015; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, March 18–May 9, 2016; Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile, April 7–August 12, 2018; Sursock Museum, Beirut, July 27–October 1, 2018
Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti’s exhibition Past Disquiet and its accompanying catalog of essays and documents is the result of ten years of research into neglected histories of international solidarity. Their research brings to light a dynamic, sprawling network of Cold War “grassroots cultural diplomacy” projects (57) that often developed independently or at arm’s length from the state. During the 1960s–90s, cultural workers found common cause in anti-imperialist struggles and campaigns for national liberation, justice, and equality. Solidarity was expressed by artists and intellectuals through the organization of exhibitions, the donation of works, and the development of institutions explicitly committed… Full Review
September 9, 2019
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François Brunet
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2017. 400 pp.; 33 b/w ills. Paper €27.00 (9782130654322)
Editor’s note: François Brunet, the author of the book under review, passed away unexpectedly on December 25, 2018. Didier Aubert, Brunet’s first doctoral student, wrote this review and commemoration. While caa.reviews upholds firm conflict of interest guidelines that prevent the commissioning of reviews where there might be a personal or professional connection between reviewer and reviewee, here we made an exception in order to acknowledge Brunet’s significant contributions to the study of American art and culture, both as a scholar and mentor. François Brunet, whose sudden and untimely death on Christmas day last December left countless students and colleagues… Full Review
September 6, 2019
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Henk van Nierop
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. 452 pp.; 123 b/w ills. Cloth €99.00 (9789462981386)
Two themes dominate this premier biography of the Dutch Golden Age celebrity Romeyn de Hooghe: art and ambition. De Hooghe was a prolific and successful graphic artist who produced a wide and diverse array of etchings, engravings, prints, paintings, sculptures, and emblem books and medals, many of whose images are virtually synonymous with the culture of the late Golden Age and can be found in nearly every textbook on the subject. Such were De Hooghe’s skills that the stadtholder-king William III employed them repeatedly in his long-running propaganda wars against his archenemy King Louis XIV of France. Indeed, the imagery… Full Review
September 5, 2019
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