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

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Koichi Shinohara
New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 10 b/w ills. $55.00 (9780231166140)
What is the role of an image in a ritual setting? This unflagging question in the study of religious art and visual culture has been raised again by Koichi Shinohara, a historian of East Asian Buddhism who has already produced a number of inspiring works treating the issue. Images in Asian Religions: Text and Contexts (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004; co-edited with Phyllis Granoff) is one such work, in which he utilized a close reading of apologetic writings by... Full Review
February 4, 2016
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Chika Okeke-Agulu
Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 376 pp.; 129 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9780822357469)
Chika Okeke-Agulu’s thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth Century Nigeria significantly advances an understanding of modern African art. He considers a key time period in Nigerian art history, from the late 1950s eve of independence (Nigeria gained its independence in 1960) to roughly 1968 at the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70). The term “postcolonial modernism,” Okeke-Agulu rightly insists, means... Full Review
January 28, 2016
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Adrienne L. Childs and Susan H. Libby, eds.
Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 262 pp.; 9 color ills.; 49 b/w ills. Cloth $114.95 (9781409422006)
In 1960, Dominique and John de Menil instituted a project to study images of persons of African descent in Western art. As Adrienne Childs and Susan Libby note in the introduction to their edited volume, Blacks and Blackness in European Art of the Long Nineteenth Century, that project, which began as a photographic archive, was initiated in response to segregation and racial discrimination in the United States. The Menil’s undertaking eventually culminated in a series of five books,... Full Review
January 28, 2016
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Mechtild Widrich
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014. 256 pp.; 68 b/w ills. Cloth $34.95 (9780719091636)
In Performative Monuments: The Rematerialisation of Public Art, Mechtild Widrich examines the relationship of embodiment, memory making, and especially documentation to the meaning of monumental, performative, and audience-oriented art in post-World War II Europe. Ranging from former Yugoslavia to Austria and a split Germany during the Cold War, Widrich expertly discusses artists from each region, including VALIE EXPORT in Vienna, Marina Abramović in the former Yugoslavia, and Joseph... Full Review
January 28, 2016
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Liam Kennedy and Caitlin Patrick, eds.
London: I.B. Tauris, 2014. 255 pp.; 12 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Paper $28.00 (9781780767895)
Time and again it is declared that photojournalism is in crisis—that neither its truth claims nor its purported humanitarianism carry much currency in today’s hyper-mediatized, post-indexical world. Critics commonly hold that our era’s wholesale mistrust in photography’s veracity and its ability to straightforwardly incite “empathy and compassion” has rendered photojournalism “fatally compromised or exhausted” (2). Indeed, in a climate where claims such as, “We’re an empire now, and when we... Full Review
January 21, 2016
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Maarten Delbeke
Histories of Vision. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012. 258 pp.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $124.95 (9780754634850)
Maarten Delbeke’s The Art of Religion examines the relationship between the art theory of seventeenth-century Rome, particularly as it might apply to the work of Gianlorenzo Bernini and the writings of the Jesuit Sforza Pallavicino (1607–1667), confidant of popes Urban VIII, Innocent X, and especially Alexander VII, who made him cardinal in 1659. Pallavicino’s direct involvement with art and architecture was limited, and his writings refer only occasionally to the visual arts or... Full Review
January 14, 2016
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David Cateforis, ed.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. 248 pp.; 90 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780520280298)
David Cateforis’s Rethinking Andrew Wyeth—an anthology of new and republished essays by well-known scholars of American and modern art—will prove invaluable to anyone studying the work or life of this controversial artist. Sturdily constructed and beautifully presented by the University of California Press, its 107 high-quality images (91 in color, 16 in black and white) illustrate nine individual texts, which are prefaced by an editor’s introduction and followed by a compilation of... Full Review
January 14, 2016
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Meredith J. Gill
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 372 pp.; 32 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781107027954)
Meredith Gill’s Angels and the Order of Heaven in Medieval and Renaissance Italy sets ambitious goals. She states that “in studying angels we are . . . always studying the big questions, whether these may be about the nature of existence; about humankind’s relation to the supernal; about the identity of language, or the definitions of ‘place,’ ‘hierarchy,’ ‘metaphor,’ or ‘love.’ Studying angels . . . makes available to us the imaginations of artists as they grapple with the marvelous... Full Review
January 7, 2016
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Franklin Sirmans, Robert Farris Thompson, and Robert O'Meally
Exh. cat. New York: Prestel, 2014. 112 pp.; 58 color ills. Cloth $34.95 (9783791354040)
Exhibition schedule: Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, October 25, 2014–January 25, 2015
Basquiat and the Bayou is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition of ten works by Jean-Michel Basquiat held at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. Its contributors attempt to expand an understanding of Basquiat’s art by locating it within an African diasporic identity via interpretations of a selection of his Southern-themed works. Curator Franklin Sirmans’s essay, also titled “Basquiat and the Bayou,” is essentially an exhibition review. It describes works that... Full Review
December 23, 2015
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Susie Protschky, ed.
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014. 245 pp.; 11 color ills.; 29 b/w ills. Cloth $99.00 (9789089646620)
The ten essays in this edited collection focus on the role of photography in the implementation of colonial policy in early twentieth-century Indonesia and the responses of the local Indies people whose lives were affected and shaped by this policy. Susie Protschky, the book’s editor, explains that in the very early years of the twentieth century, local resistance to Dutch rule had become so resounding that the government was forced to moderate its policies. The new suite of liberal... Full Review
December 23, 2015
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