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

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Matthew Gandy
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 368 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (9780262028257)
Erik Swyngedouw
Urban and Industrial Environments Series. Cambridge, MA: 2015. 296 pp.; 41 b/w ills. Cloth $29.00 (9780262029032)
In urban studies, the broader social sciences, and science and technology studies, the human dimensions of water have been at the forefront of a move to break down the divide between nature and society. In particular, the interdisciplinary subfield of urban political ecology has emerged as an influential wave of scholarship seeking to incorporate the social production of nature into theorizations of geographical political economy, with many of its most important studies focusing on the... Full Review
June 23, 2016
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Michelle Foa
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 248 pp.; 60 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300208351)
In 1922, André Lhote claimed that Georges Seurat was “one of the lighthouses” then guiding a postwar generation of artists. Such an assertion might be understood simply as an assessment of Seurat’s enduring significance; but in her important new account of the artist, Michelle Foa steers a different approach to Lhote’s metaphor. Lighthouses are, in fact, thematically persistent for Seurat, and Foa bookends her analysis with two examples: the 1886 Hospice and Lighthouse of Honfleur and... Full Review
June 23, 2016
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Alena Robin
Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2014. 309 pp.; 44 b/w ills. Paper (9786070260766)
During much of the colonial period and into the nineteenth century, a series of fourteen chapels marking the Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, stretched from the Franciscan monastery in downtown Mexico City to the Calvary chapel at the western edge of the city’s Alameda park. The buildings were constructed between 1684 and 1706, with the support of members of the Third Order of Saint Francis. The chapels allowed residents of Mexico City, who were geographically removed from the... Full Review
June 23, 2016
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Mary Roberts
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 50+ color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520280533)
For years now, Mary Roberts has been generating scholarship on the complexities of nineteenth-century Orientalism. Her work emphasizes the interplay between painters, patrons, models, and viewers and, more generally, relations between Western and local actors of this complex world of art production and consumption. Her Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture provides a most welcome continuity with her previous work, as it aims at bringing a... Full Review
June 16, 2016
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Douglas Biow
Haney Foundation Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 328 pp.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780812246711)
The Renaissance individual, by now, is deconstructed, multiplied, shattered, and divided, but again and again it stubbornly returns, resilient and enduring, reintegrated and unified. In a learned synthesis of cultural and intellectual history, Douglas Biow presents a staunch defense of the concept of the individual, boldly asserting its importance in sixteenth-century Italy. Jacob Burckhardt and Stephen Greenblatt here loom large, as does the recent, insightful work of John Martin (John... Full Review
June 16, 2016
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Penny Morrill
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014. 384 pp.; 115 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780292759305)
The near total destruction of the sixteenth-century murals in the palatial home of Tomás de la Plaza—an influential cleric in New Spain, dean of the cathedral of Puebla, and patron of the arts—makes for a compelling opening story in Penny Morrill’s new monograph, The Casa del Deán: New World Imagery in a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Mural Cycle. Although much of the original structure and murals were destroyed over the centuries, Morrill re-creates and evaluates key elements of the dean’s... Full Review
June 9, 2016
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Rowland Abiodun
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 440 pp.; 69 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9781107047440)
Rowland Abiodun’s Yoruba Art and Language: Seeking the African in African Art demonstrates how certain Yoruba art forms fit into a larger cultural and linguistic context. Specifically, it examines the fundamentality of oríkì—a word that encompasses a variety of Yoruba literary, verbal, and performance genres including recitations, incantations, chants, curses, laments, dramatic satire, and poetry. According to Abiodun, an examination of oríkì can provide often overlooked... Full Review
June 9, 2016
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Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka
Trans. Krzysztof Z. Cieszkowski. Warsaw: Salix alba Press, 2015. 184 pp.; 129 b/w ills. Paper € 22.50 (9788393093779)
Landscape with Menorah: Jews in the Towns and Cities of the Former Rzeczpospolita of Poland and Lithuania is the revised and updated edition of Krajobraz z menora. Zydzi w miastach i miasteczkach dawnej Rzeszpospolitej (Wrocław: Zaklad Narodowy im Ossolinskich Wydawn, 2008), which was published during the lifetime of Kazimierz Piechotka (1919–2010). His wife and equal collaborator, Maria (1920–), supervised revisions and the fluent translation into English. The Piechotkas,... Full Review
June 2, 2016
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John J. Marciari, Carmen Albendea, Ian McClure, Anikó Bezur, Jens Stenger, and Benito Navarrete Prieto
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 96 pp.; 46 color ills. Paper $20.00 (9780300207866)
Curator John Marciari made headlines in 2010 when he announced his discovery of what he deemed to be an early masterpiece by none other than Diego Velázquez. The painting, depicting the Education of the Virgin, was in poor condition, and it had languished for decades in the Yale University Art Gallery basement. Yet Marciari perceived in it the hand of a master. Writing in Ars Magazine, he hailed the Yale Education as “the most significant addition to [Velázquez’s] work in a... Full Review
June 2, 2016
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Wendy Kozol
Minnapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 280 pp.; 39 b/w ills. Paper $22.50 (9780816681303)
The involvement of photography in helping to contest as well as legitimize war as a means to resolve conflict has been studied by a large number of scholars in recent years. Often motivated by their belief in humanitarianism, scholars commonly aim to salvage photography from its absorption into overt belligerent politics, highlighting instead the role it plays in communicating war atrocities. While as a consequence photography has been seen and defended in academia mainly as a medium that... Full Review
May 26, 2016
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