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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Katherine A. Bussard
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 232 pp.; 104 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300192261)
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November 14, 2014

It is strangely difficult to consider what is meant by street photography, both for those who write about it and for the photographers for whom the street is their location and, to varying degrees, their subject. This is due in large part to the remarkable success of a genre that is most often championed through reference to its so-called “greats”—photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harry Callahan, and Garry Winogrand—and, more tellingly still, through a familiarity...

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
London: MACK and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013. 768 pp.; 614 color ills. Cloth $80.00 (9781907946417)
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November 14, 2014

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s Holy Bible takes the form of a King James facsimile, complete with tissuey paper and gilt edges. Opening the book reveals photographs printed as if pasted over the text, with evocative scriptural phrases underlined in red. A crimson pamphlet in the back bears the essay “Divine Violence” by philosopher Adi Ophir, which argues that the biblical God regulated humanity through catastrophic violence, and that with the rise of law and...

Sarah Pearce, ed.
Supplement Series, Volume II. Oxford: Journal of Jewish Studies, 2013. 288 pp.; 50 color ills. Paper £ 55.00 (978-0957522800)
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November 7, 2014

Although entitled The Image and Its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity, the ten essays in this collection edited by Sarah Pearce center as much on the power of the image as on its prohibition. From the remarkable wall paintings of the Dura Europos synagogue to the surprising floor mosaics featuring Helios and the zodiac, the richness of ancient Jewish art, particularly the art of Late Antiquity, is on display. Nearly half of the essays focus on...

Dominic Johnson, ed.
Intellect Live. Bristol, UK: Intellect Ltd., 2013. 248 pp.; 132 color ills.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9781783200351)
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November 7, 2014

Ron Athey’s performances present bloody religious tableaux, explicit sex, and self-harming actions. Deeply disturbing and profoundly moving, these performances have garnered critical attention and generated controversy since the 1990s, when Athey’s Torture Trilogy (1992–95) became the focal point of Congressional culture war debates. The ideas and aesthetics embedded in Athey’s artworks reflect his complex, overlapping identities, both past and present: Pentecostal child prodigy, punk adolescent, heroin addict, S&M club performer, HIV-positive patient, tattooed man, avant-garde...

John Ott
The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700–1950. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 330 pp.; 4 color ills.; 73 b/w ills. Cloth $119.95 (9781409463344)
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October 8, 2014

The title of John Ott’s book, Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California: Cultural Philanthropy, Industrial Capital, and Social Authority, is a riff on Sarah Burns’s important Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). Ott covers much the same ground chronologically as Burns and with the same high ambitions. But while Burns’s focus is a traditional one on the artist as the maker of meaning,...

Eve Meltzer
University of Chicago Press, 2013. 256 pp.; 36 color ills.; 62 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226007885)
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October 8, 2014

Eve Meltzer’s Systems We Have Loved: Conceptual Art, Affect, and the Antihumanist Turn returns readers to the structuralist adventure in art history. To recall something of the stakes and texture of that adventure, consider the following exchange in 1976 between Robert Morris, an artist, and A. A., a blind woman hired to assist him with a series of drawings entitled Blind Time II. [R. M.:] “Letting the page stand as a ground for yourself, an...

Tanya J. Tiffany
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012. 256 pp.; 20 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271053790)
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October 3, 2014

How did Diego Velázquez’s formative period in Seville inform his later artistic accomplishments at the Spanish court? What was the role of Francisco Pacheco’s teachings and of his intellectual circle in the artist’s training? And how did Velázquez’s early works engage with Sevillian audiences and the concerns of their local culture? These questions are not new ones to students and historians of Spanish baroque painting. In Diego Velázquez’s Early Paintings and the Culture of Seventeenth-Century...

Mirjam Brusius, Katrina Dean, and Chitra Ramalingam, eds.
Studies in British Art, 23. New Haven and London: Yale Center for British Art and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2013. 320 pp.; 109 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300179347)
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September 19, 2014

William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography attempts to resituate the early history of photography and one of its most important innovators, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877), in the context of mid-Victorian science. Developed from a conference held in June 2010 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge, this collection of essays, as described in the introduction, examines the relationship of the discovery of photography to the “new...

Minna Törmä
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013. 244 pp.; 28 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9789888139842)
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September 19, 2014

The recent passing of several major figures, including Michael Sullivan (1916–2013) and James Cahill (1926–2014), reminds us of the importance of individuals in advancing the field of Chinese art. As one of the pioneers of Chinese art studies in Europe and North America during the first half of the twentieth century, Finnish-Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén’s (1879–1966) numerous publications helped to propel the field at the time. In Enchanted by Lohans: Osvald Sirén’s Journey into...

Lara Jaishree Netting
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013. 304 pp.; 42 color ills.; 78 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9789888139187)
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September 19, 2014

Two benchmark publications from the 1990s—Thomas Lawton’s A Time of Transition: Two Collectors of Chinese Art (Lawrence: University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art, 1991) and Warren I. Cohen’s East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992)—are important precursors in considering Lara Jaishree Netting’s A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture. These volumes provided some of the starting points...