Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

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Stephen F. Eisenman
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 137 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780691175256)
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, September 23, 2017–March 11, 2018
William Blake and the Age of Aquarius at Northwestern University’s Block Museum, curated by Stephen F. Eisenman, is a both learned and highly accessible look at the surprisingly broad influence that William Blake exerted on American artists in the 1960s. By focusing on Blake’s impact, Eisenman manages to present the sixties in a critical light, largely free of the tired nostalgia that usually accompanies the turbulent era. As Eisenman notes in the accompanying catalogue, the term... Full Review
August 16, 2019
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John P. Jacob and Luke Skrebowski
Exh. cat. London: D. Giles Limited in association with Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018. 252 pp.; 174 ills. Cloth $59.95 (9781911282334)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, June 21, 2018–January 6, 2019; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA, February 22–June 2, 2019
For over two decades the artist and experimental geographer Trevor Paglen has given form to visually elusive subjects, from black-op military bases hidden in Nevada deserts and spy satellites encircling the earth to NSA-tapped fiber optic cables on the Pacific Ocean floor. The Smithsonian American Art Museum... Full Review
August 15, 2019
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William Chapman Sharpe
New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 440 pp.; 113 color ills.; 42 b/w ills.; 155 ills. Cloth $74.00 (9780190675271)
Is a shadow a “physical event” or a “matter of perception? A thing or an absence of something?”(7). In Grasping Shadows: The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film, William Chapman Sharpe argues that the shadow—a phenomenon as illusory and mysterious as it is tangible and commonplace—is a crucial motif employed by artists and writers seeking to express humanity’s relationship to the “unseen.” In this ambitious feat of interdisciplinary criticism, Sharpe... Full Review
August 14, 2019
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Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens, eds.
Exh. cat. Long Beach, CA: Museum of Latin American Art in association with Fresco Books / SF Design LLC and Duke University Press, 2017. 352 pp.; 200 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9781934491584)
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, September 16, 2017–January 28, 2018; Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, June 1–September 23, 2018; Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling, New York, June 28–September 23, 2018; Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, October 13, 2018–January 13, 2019; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR, February 1–May 5, 2019; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, June 22–September 8, 2019
Consider visual art as a unique mode of communication capable of bridging the multicultural and multilingual Caribbean islands. Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, an exhibition catalogue coedited by Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens (curator of and advisor to the exhibition, respectively), suggests precisely this. Through engaging Caribbean literature and theory, they suggest that visual artwork (here including installation art,... Full Review
August 9, 2019
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Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, April 29, 2016–May 12, 2019
“I need my space” proclaims the slogan on today’s ubiquitous NASA-themed T-shirts and hoodies, seen at popular stores like Target, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21. This catchy phrase also adorns lunch boxes, coffee mugs, stickers,... Full Review
August 8, 2019
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Megan Brandow-Faller, ed.
Material Culture of Art and Design. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 352 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781501332029)
Childhood by Design contains a variety of essays that investigate the reasons toys exist. The design of childhood itself is examined, as well as the ways toys have helped form (and reform) our ideas about children. Commercial factors including manufacturing, marketing, and distribution have influenced toy creation and as a result the creation of children. The book also offers diverse topics, points of view, writing styles, and ideas about what an academic essay can be. In the... Full Review
August 6, 2019
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Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, May 27, 2017–2020
While the use of cutting-edge technology has become increasingly common in contemporary art, it often comes at a price. Slick display of digital technology can easily overshadow content and turn a work of art into gimmick—novel entertainment, at best. Laurie Anderson is arguably the most prominent among the handful of artists today who are aware of this challenge. Building on the legacy of Nam June Paik’s pioneering contributions to what is now called new media, Anderson has passionately... Full Review
August 2, 2019
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Lyndon K. Gill
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018. 312 pp.; 16 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Paper $26.95 (9780822368700)
Toward the end of the last chapter of Erotic Islands, Lyndon K. Gill reflects on the benefits and challenges of “queer ethnography” as a methodology. According to the author, situating the speaking subjects of ethnography is necessary in order to both highlight the “experiential specificity” of the ethnographer’s lived time in the field (213) and to avoid turning ethnographic subjects into “representational abstractions” (215) that overlook the internal dynamism and fluid nature of... Full Review
August 1, 2019
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Caroline Campbell, Dagmar Korbacher, Neville Rowley, and Sarah Vowles, eds.
Exh. cat. London and New Haven, CT: National Gallery in association with Yale University Press, 2018. 304 pp.; 275 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781857096347)
National Gallery, London, October 1, 2018–January 27, 2019; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, March 1–June 30, 2019
Discussion of the interplay between the North Italian Renaissance painters Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna has been a staple of art historical literature, yet this exhibition—Mantegna & Bellini, on view at the National Gallery in London, October 1, 2018–January 27, 2019—was the first to put the two artists toe-to-toe, with their achievements in direct confrontation. It’s not an easy call. These two brilliant artists, joined by family ties and a shared geography, are often... Full Review
July 31, 2019
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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... Full Review
July 29, 2019
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