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

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FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, caa.reviews is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. Stephennie Mulder examines the impact of genocide on not just a people but also on their very cultural survival through the destruction of precious material artifacts. Read her review of The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice by Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh. Full Review
September 17, 2020
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FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, caa.reviews is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. At a crucial juncture for museums and other institutions, we revisit the founding of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Read Deborah Ziska‘s review of A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump by Lonnie G. Bunch III. Full Review
September 16, 2020
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Peter Schwenger
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019. 192 pp.; 9 color ills.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $25.00 (9781517906979)
Peter Schwenger’s new book is that vital and fateful thing: “a solid first map of a territory previously unknown to academic study,” as one of the prepublication blurbs puts it. “Solid” is uncharitable; “deft” is more just. But “first” is spot on, and the point about academic study correctly identifies the gap Schwenger sets out to fill as well as his target audience. Asemic: The Art of Writing is vital because it charts the rise of an extraordinary creative practice that came into its own in the late 1990s: writing that is “without meaning” but “not without significance” (17). Like… Full Review
September 10, 2020
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FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, caa.reviews is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. Today, explore Chicanx civil rights history through the Autry Museum of the American West exhibition La Raza, reviewed by Mary Thomas. Full Review
September 9, 2020
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Darby English and Charlotte Barat, eds.
New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2019. 488 pp.; 403 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781633450349)
Though published last fall, Among Others: Blackness at MoMA takes on strategic resonance in the current moment as individuals and institutions are called to rectify their approaches to race, representation, and decolonization. A product of Darby English’s six-year tenure as consulting curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Among Others is a three-part publication that analyzes the museum’s tumultuous historical relationship with Black artists and Black audiences, its role in shaping the cultural politics of race, and the shortcomings of its collection, programs, and practices. As signaled by the title of the first essay, “Blackness at MoMA: A Legacy… Full Review
September 8, 2020
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Katherine Guinness
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019. 232 pp.; 44 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9781517905583)
Printed sideways, Katherine Guinness’s cover image for Schizogenesis: The Art of Rosemarie Trockel immediately evokes the hypnotic and disorienting effects of Trockel’s art. What appear to be wide-eyed conjoined twins, women with distinctly late-1980s tousled hairstyles, stare out of the image. With one hand stalwartly posed on each hip, they are enclosed within a single, double-headed black sweater. Guinness uses this emblematic work by Trockel, Untitled (Schizo-Pullover) (1988), as her central node. From this knotty intersection she begins to unravel and reknit the entwined narratives of the German artist’s prolific practice. Guinness’s decision to begin here is savvy. She opens… Full Review
September 3, 2020
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Maureen G. Shanahan and Ana María Reyes, eds.
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017. 288 pp.; 16 color ills. Paper $35.00 (9780813054490)
How does a revolutionary figure, an individual who demands fundamental and radical change in political organization, become the symbol of political order? And what is the impact of rebellion and authority coming together in a single visage? These questions framed my own investigations of Emiliano Zapata, general of the Southern Forces of the Mexican Revolution (1910–19), whose image has multiple and often oppositional meanings. Zapata, the most wanted revolutionary figure in Mexican history—someone labeled a barbarian and bandit during his lifetime—has become a global symbol of Mexico. Similarly, according to Maureen G. Shanahan and Ana María Reyes, editors of this… Full Review
September 1, 2020
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Jie Shi
Tang Center Series in Early China. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 368 pp.; 5 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780231191029)
It is generally assumed that a Chinese tomb was a private space of concealment, where the occupant would enjoy an idealized afterlife primarily concerned with personal welfare. In Modeling Peace: Royal Tombs and Political Ideology in Early China, however, Jie Shi presents the lavishly embellished royal tombs of the Western Han empire (206 BCE–8 CE) as public monuments that announced the ideological agendas of their elite owners. The book is structured around an in-depth case study of the renowned Mancheng tombs, where Liu Sheng (r. 154–113 BCE), the regent of the enfeoffed Zhongshan kingdom, and his wife, Dou… Full Review
August 28, 2020
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FROM THE ARCHIVE: This summer, caa.reviews is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. Delve into Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, catalog for the monumental 2017–19 exhibition of the same name, with Adrienne L. Childs. Full Review
August 26, 2020
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SoLA Contemporary, Los Angeles, July 2–August 15, 2020
When, in 2013, the Oakland, California–based, employee-owned creative firm Design Action Collective was tasked by Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to create a visual identity for the incipient movement, the challenge was enormous. How to visually represent a movement that was an outgrowth of historic civil rights and progressive political protest movements? How to capture the energy and rage aimed at a fundamentally broken justice system, as well as instill hope for profound, systemic change? Daunting though the brief may have been, within three days Design Action Collective had produced a… Full Review
August 25, 2020
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