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

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Mantha Zarmakoupi
Oxford Studies in Ancient Culture and Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 135 b/w ills. $160.00 (9780199678389)
This ambitious study originated in 2007 as Mantha Zarmakoupi’s Oxford University DPhil thesis. Several years of further research have allowed her to develop her ideas and deepen her bibliographic research on the archaeology and architecture of Roman villas and the cultural life that villas framed. She aims, in brief, to examine “the ways in which Romans conceptualized the architectural design of luxurious villas in order to accommodate a life of educated leisure in the countryside” (1). In... Full Review
July 27, 2017
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Shannen L. Hill
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 26 color ills.; 93 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780816676378)
The conviction and vitality with which Shannen L. Hill explores visual culture as an agent of change shaped by Black Consciousness (hereafter, BC) and embodied in ideas and images of its leading advocate, Stephen Biko, took me back to late 1980s South Africa when I, a bright-eyed freshman, optimistically threw myself into the student liberation movement at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. There I and others designed, printed, and carried protest posters informed by an... Full Review
July 26, 2017
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Tom Nickson
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 324 pp.; 60 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271066455)
The title of Tom Nickson’s impressive and beautifully illustrated monograph, Toledo Cathedral: Building Histories in Medieval Castile, cleverly highlights the dual agenda of his ambitious study of the Spanish cathedral. As a book dedicated to a single work of architecture, it endeavors to untangle the complicated and often tacitly accepted building history of the cathedral’s construction from the early thirteenth through late fourteenth centuries. In so doing, Nickson reveals how the... Full Review
July 20, 2017
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Duncan Clarke
New York: Prestel, 2015. 272 pp.; 230 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9783791381633)
Textiles are key to understanding the past. From sartorial practice to divisions of labor and patterns of trade, textiles serve as historical documents that often reveal as much about the people who produced and wore them as they do about those who collected, traded, copied, or admired them. African Textiles: The Karun Thakar Collection is a step toward documenting a significant private collection of textiles that shows potential for increasing our understanding of this important... Full Review
July 19, 2017
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John Guy, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. 336 pp.; 304 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300204377)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 14–July 27, 2014
In spring 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented a groundbreaking exhibition of early Hindu and Buddhist artworks from Southeast Asia. Aptly titled Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, the exhibition brought together treasures from nearly thirty institutions and collections across nine different countries, many of which had never before traveled outside their country of origin. Carefully grouped, juxtaposed, and emplaced in the Metropolitan’s... Full Review
July 13, 2017
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Stephen Sheehi
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 264 pp.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780691151328)
Stephen Sheehi’s The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860–1910 focuses on the social history of indigenous photography in the Ottoman World between 1860 and 1910. The book redresses the lack of critical attention to local photography, analyzing the production, performance, exchange, circulation, and display of photography in Ottoman Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine. Sheehi pursues in-depth research and analysis of both visual and written primary sources by local... Full Review
July 12, 2017
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Amara Solari
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. 244 pp.; 19 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780292744943)
When the Spanish mendicant orders built the first monastery complexes of the Yucatan Peninsula on top of extant pre-Columbian towns, temples, and ceremonial centers, one of their aims was to take possession of indigenous sacred space, appropriate its inherent sacredness, and reuse it to establish the Catholic faith in the New World. In Maya Ideologies of the Sacred: The Transfiguration of Space in Colonial Yucatan, Amara Solari examines the city of Itzmal in Yucatan as an example in... Full Review
July 7, 2017
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Jennifer Tyburczy
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 296 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Paper $37.50 (9780226315249)
I have been carrying around Jennifer Tyburczy’s Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display for months now, and have received, understandably, quite some attention for it. I have been reading it on my morning commute to work on the train, sitting in cafes and parks with it, and, most notably, have been often seen with it at work, much to the amusement of my students. Not only do people have a lot to say about the title, but the cover image furthers the book’s seductive allure.... Full Review
July 6, 2017
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Sedat Pakay, Kathryn Hubbard, and Barbara Earl Thomas
Exh. cat. Seattle: Northwest African American Museum, 2012. 48 pp.; 35 ills. Paper $19.95 (9780295992105)
James Baldwin in Turkey: Bearing Witness from Another Place is based on nearly thirty images of James Baldwin by Sedat Pakay, a renowned photographer and documentary filmmaker who first met Baldwin when Pakay was a young student at Robert College (now part of Boğaziçi University) in Istanbul. The photographs were originally showcased in an exhibition at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle in 2012. The collection comprises a foreword, several essays by novelists,... Full Review
June 29, 2017
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Megan E. O'Neil
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. 274 pp.; 10 color ills.; 123 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780806142579)
Alexander Parmington
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 288 pp.; 115 b/w ills. Cloth $110.00 (9781107002340)
Megan E. O’Neil’s Engaging Ancient Maya Sculpture at Piedras Negras, Guatemala and Alexander Parmington’s Space and Sculpture in the Classic Maya City introduce elements of time and space in discussing how Maya art and architecture operated and expressed meaning. Both scholars take up the topic of the built environment during the Late Classic Period (seventh to ninth century CE) and anchor their analyses to sites near the Usumacinta River (O’Neil studies Piedras Negras in Petén,... Full Review
June 28, 2017
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