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

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Krista A. Thompson
Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 368 pp.; 143 color ills. Paperback $26.95 (9780822358077)
What is bling, if not more tightly focused shine? The Oxford English Dictionary defines bling (sometimes reduplicated as bling-bling) as both a material referent and multivalent signified: “A. n. (A piece of) ostentatious jewelry. Hence: wealth; conspicuous consumption. B. adj. Ostentatious, flashy; designating flamboyant jewelry or dress. Also: that glorifies conspicuous consumption; materialistic.” According to the rapper B.G., one of the coiners of term at the end of the last... Full Review
September 30, 2016
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Arni Brownstone, ed.
Exh. cat. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press in association with Royal Ontario Museum, 2015. 216 pp.; 98 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9780806146300)
Lienzos are large painted cloths produced after the Spanish invasion of Mexico that relate the territory, historical deeds, and protagonists of local cacicazgos (city-states) throughout central and southern Mexico. Following the style and conventions of Mesoamerican pictography, such as the more famous Mixtec screenfolds, they greatly outnumber their surviving pre-Hispanic counterparts and offer an indigenous view of the changes that occurred in Mesoamerica in the wake of the... Full Review
September 29, 2016
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Eik Kahng, ed.
Exh. cat. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2013. 168 pp.; 130 color ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780300199444)
Exhibition schedule: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, October 27, 2013–January 26, 2014; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, February 23–May 18, 2014
In 1998, French museums celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Eugène Delacroix by staging a diverse, exciting series of exhibitions of his work. One of the smallest shows centered on a single painting, the monumental Battle of Taillebourg, made for the Galeries historique de Versailles in 1837 and now housed in the museum at the Château de Versailles, which hosted the exhibition. Accompanied by a modest but excellent catalogue, the show examined the painting and its preparatory... Full Review
September 29, 2016
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Gennifer Weisenfeld
An Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. 400 pp.; 104 color ills.; 94 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520271951)
The Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 was a defining moment in modern Japan’s history. The tremors and aftershocks caused significant damage, but even more destructive were the out-of-control fires that raged across the cityscape in the aftermath. Over forty-five percent of Tokyo and ninety percent of Yokohama were razed, with over ninety-one thousand people killed, thirteen thousand missing, and fifty-two thousand injured. While there were heartening episodes of self-sacrifice, other stories... Full Review
September 28, 2016
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Benjamin Schmidt
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 448 pp.; 24 color ills.; 179 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780812246469)
Historian Benjamin Schmidt’s Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World picks up, chronologically speaking, where his prior book, Innocence Abroad: The Dutch Imagination and the New World, 1570–1670 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), left off—in 1670. In Innocence Abroad Schmidt trained his scholarly gaze on Dutch encounters with and conceptions of the New World in the first century of the Dutch Republic. In Inventing... Full Review
September 22, 2016
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Ian F. Verstegen
Early Modern Studies, Vol. 14. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2015. 171 pp.; 8 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9781612481326)
Ian Verstegen’s new book, Federico Barocci and the Oratorians: Corporate Patronage and Style in the Counter-Reformation, examines the interior decoration of the Chiesa Nuova in Rome, specifically the altarpieces of the chapels, in light of the order and their beliefs. His focus is on Barocci and how his style corresponded so well to the tenets of the Oratorians that they repeatedly sought his paintings, despite the fact that other artists were available and Barocci was expensive, slow,... Full Review
September 21, 2016
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Ilan Stavans and Jorge J. E. Gracia
Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2014. 240 pp.; 13 color ills. Paper $22.95 (9780822356349)
E. Carmen Ramos
Exh. cat. London: D Giles Limited, 2014. 365 pp.; 265 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781907804441)
Exhibition schedule: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, October 25, 2013–March 2, 2014; Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami, March 28–June 22, 2014; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, September 21, 2014–January 11, 2015; Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, February 6–Mary 17, 2015; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, October 16, 2015–January 17, 2016; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, March 5–Mary 29, 2016
There are two questions that must be considered before a review of these two books is presented: What is a Latino and what is Latino art? The term Latino, as used by the authors of these very interesting and different perspectives on the subject of Latino art in particular, refers to the descendants of people of Latin America, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and the Iberian Peninsula who were either born in or moved to the United States. Today, the Latino community's numbers are growing... Full Review
September 21, 2016
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Stefanie Solum
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 288 pp.; 4 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $119.95 (9781409462033)
Stefanie Solum opens this stimulating book by discussing a question fundamental for those interested in artistic patronage in Renaissance Florence: whether or not laywomen commissioned significant paintings, sculptures, or buildings in the city during the fifteenth century. Archival sources, the lifeblood of patronage studies, suggest that they did not; essentially nothing in the existing documentary record ties any woman, as patron, to any major fifteenth-century project (6). Arguing that... Full Review
September 16, 2016
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Megan R. Luke
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 22 color ills.; 98 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226085180)
Doing justice to the importance of Megan R. Luke’s compelling study of the German artist Kurt Schwitters’s late work of the 1930s and 1940s requires taking stock of how Schwitters’s richly contradictory art has previously been understood. The story as usually told—following John Elderfield’s foundational monograph (Kurt Schwitters, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985)—goes something like this: soon after the end of the First World War, Schwitters began making what he called... Full Review
September 15, 2016
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Anne Umland, Blair Hartzell, and Scott Gerson, eds.
New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 350 pp. E-book $24.99 (9780870708046)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 13–June 6, 2011
Begun in the winter of 1912 and known collectively as the papiers collés, Pablo Picasso’s collages of pasted papers, from newsprint and wallpaper to fine drawing paper, have been the battleground for several of the most fraught methodological debates in modernist art history. In the 1980s and 1990s, the interpretive field was divided between, on the one hand, scholars who read the newspapers as incorporating conscious reference by Picasso to the political events or mass cultural... Full Review
September 14, 2016
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