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

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Erik Thunø
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 325 pp.; 25 color ills.; 104 b/w ills. Cloth $110.00 (9781107069909)
Erik Thunø’s The Apse Mosaic in Early Medieval Rome: Time, Network, and Repetition presents an alternative “non-diachronic” art-historical interpretation of Roman apse decoration from the sixth through ninth centuries. He identifies a core set of examples that share key visual and textual features, including: SS. Cosmas and Damian (526–30); S. Agnese (625–38); S. Venanzio (640–42); the apses of Paschal I (817–24)—S. Prassede, S. Cecelia, S. Maria in Domnica; and S. Marco (827–44).... Full Review
December 8, 2016
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Marta Gutman
Historical Studies of Urban America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 448 pp.; 12 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226311289)
The current obsessive fixation on children, childhood, and parenting has relegated the notion of “other people’s children” to a position of indifference and even mild disdain on the part of many middle- and upper-middle-class citizens. Yet the history of philanthropy and the preoccupation with the care of poor children was a central purpose of wealthy and middle-class women for a century and a half. In her book A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of... Full Review
December 8, 2016
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Jeffrey Chipps Smith, ed.
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 244 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $104.95 (9781472435873)
Blind spots help define a period eye. That is, what one period seems to lack is precisely what distinguishes its conventions from those of other periods. Yet the blind spots are unstable. Given that examining textual documentation of a period for its conventional visual terms remains central to art-historical practice, such documents require interpretation and reinterpretation. Even the most self-conscious or straightforward document writers, announcing their own biases, are unaware of all... Full Review
December 7, 2016
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Lowery Stokes Sims, ed.
Exh. cat. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2015. 256 pp.; 145 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780878468157)
In 2015, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, produced a large, handsome catalogue featuring approximately one hundred works by African American artists from its permanent collection, all of which were acquired over the past four decades. Three factors had a significant impact in amassing this art. Since 1969, Edmund Barry Gaither, curator and director of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Boston, has also served as a curator and consultant to the MFA. In 2005, the MFA... Full Review
December 1, 2016
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James Raven, ed.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 150 pp. Cloth $67.50 (9781137520760)
David Lowenthal contends that the heritage conservation movement came about largely as a result of “a sense of loss,” as humans saw their built environment vanish at alarming rates during the last century (David Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985). In the United Kingdom, an island nation, the loss of each historic building often seems to be magnified by longstanding introspection, as the British worry over every facet of their... Full Review
November 30, 2016
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Kaja Silverman
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. 240 pp.; 30 color ills.; 96 b/w ills. Paperback $21.95 (9780804793995)
How do we know the world exists? This question, which precedes Martin Heidegger’s examination of the meaning of Being itself in Being and Time (trans. Joan Stambaugh, Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), brings Heidegger quickly to the terms by which we can “know” the material world. His argument singles out “useless things” as key to the process by which the world discloses itself to us, for these disturb the instrumental order of everyday existence, opening an awareness of the “totality.”... Full Review
November 25, 2016
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Stella Nair
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 28 color ills.; 136 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (9781477302507)
Stella Nair’s excellent new study of the Inca royal estate at Chinchero, Peru, At Home with the Sapa Inca: Architecture, Space, and Legacy at Chinchero, examines the experiential aspects of this site in relation to indigenous ideologies of space and the built environment. The book is divided into chapters that consider Inca ideas of place and time; specific architectural features; the community that built Chinchero under the direction of the tenth Inca king, Topa Inca; and that same... Full Review
November 9, 2016
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Seth Price
New York: Leopard, 2015. 122 pp. Paper $20.00 (9780981546834)
Visual artist Seth Price’s Fuck Seth Price declares itself a novel. It claims this clearly on the cover: A Novel—with a capital “N.” While Fuck Seth Price is the artist’s fourth book, it is his first self-declared novel, though its qualifications to this identity begin to disintegrate even before one flips open the small volume’s die-cut cover. What readers find in the relatively short span of the book’s 122 pages is not a novel in any recognizable sense (though it makes... Full Review
November 2, 2016
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Julia I. Miller and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 264 pp.; 34 color ills.; 47 b/w ills. Cloth $74.95 (9780271065038)
Julia I. Miller and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell’s From Giotto to Botticelli: The Artistic Patronage of the Humiliati in Florence, a long-awaited study on art related to the Humiliati (“humbled ones”), provides a fresh approach to examining the patronage of religious orders. Originating in the eleventh century near Milan, the Humiliati were officially recognized by Pope Innocent III in 1201 and the male branch suppressed in 1571, following the failed assassination of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo... Full Review
October 28, 2016
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Ruth E. Iskin
Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2014. 408 pp.; 48 color ills.; 188 b/w ills. Paper $50.00 (9781611686173)
Posters have long occupied a paradoxical position in the history of nineteenth-century art. Despite their appearance at the center of many exhibitions and textbook studies of the period, posters remain mostly peripheral to art history’s disciplinary foci. Ruth Iskin’s The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s–1900s offers an important antidote to the exclusion of posters from substantive art-historical analysis. As her title asserts, “the poster” merits new... Full Review
October 28, 2016
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