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

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Nancy Hoffman, Frank Verputten, and Robbert Roos
Exh. cat. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2012. 144 pp.; 76 color ills. Paper $35.00 (9789460222115)
Exhibition schedule: Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, Netherlands, May 25–August 26, 2012
The eponymous catalogue to the exhibition Who More Sci-fi Than Us?: Contemporary Art from the Caribbean aims to examine the complexity of Caribbean art through the metaphor of science fiction. Curator of the exhibition and co-founding director until 2011 of the Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao Center for Contemporary Art in the Dutch Caribbean, Nancy Hoffman writes in the introduction that the logic of the Caribbean is perfectly captured in Junot Díaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of... Full Review
July 21, 2016
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Valérie Rousseau
Exh. cat. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2015. 136 pp.; 83 color ills.; 17 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (9780912161242)
Exhibition schedule: American Folk Art Museum, New York, New York, March 26–July 5, 2015
In the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition catalogue When the Curtain Never Comes Down: Performance Art and the Alter Ego, curator Valérie Rousseau highlights the creative expressions and artistic practices of twenty-six individuals and one religious community. With selections that span the late nineteenth century to the present, Rousseau succeeds in opening new discussions on objects and related performative actions of artists referred to as “self-taught” and “art brut.” A... Full Review
July 21, 2016
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Naomi Beckwith, Donatien Grau, and Jennifer Higgie
New York: Prestel, 2014. 136 pp.; 75 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9783791349671)
A casual perusal of the monograph Lynette Yiadom-Boakye quickly establishes—in its ratio of image to text—the main objective of the book to be a celebration of the artist’s oeuvre rather than a critical engagement with it. Of the 136 pages in the slim, attractive volume, the substantive text amounts to less than fifty pages while more than fifty-five leaves are devoted to beautifully designed, full-page color reproductions, most of them featuring a single image of Yiadom-Boakye’s... Full Review
July 21, 2016
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William S. Rodner
Leiden: Brill, 2012. 240 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $128.00 (9789004220393)
In Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes: The Art and Writings of Yoshio Markino, 1897–1915, William S. Rodner presents the first scholarly monograph in English on Yoshio Makino (or “Markino,” as the artist romanized the spelling of his family name). There have been a few publications and exhibitions in Japan on this once popular illustrator in early twentieth-century London, but it is in Rodner’s book that one finds a detailed and engaging account of Markino’s most productive years... Full Review
July 14, 2016
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Eva Díaz
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 256 pp.; 20 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9780226067988)
Art historian Eva Díaz’s The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College is a tightly focused examination of the activities of Josef Albers, John Cage, and R. Buckminster Fuller at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. As Mary Emma Harris argues in her foundational history, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), experimentation was integral to Black Mountain College’s pedagogical vision, and... Full Review
July 7, 2016
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J. J. Pollitt, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 500 pp.; 140 color ills.; 237 b/w ills. Cloth $250.00 (9780521865913)
This substantial and important volume, edited by J. J. Pollitt, offers a comprehensive and updated survey of the evidence for mural and panel painting in the ancient Mediterranean, from the Aegean Bronze Age to Late Antiquity. The range of material under analysis is quite inclusive: the authors evaluate how a variety of painted media might have related to larger-scale or “free” painting, which in certain periods might be considered a “lost art” (see chapter 2). Those most familiar with the... Full Review
July 7, 2016
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Sumathi Ramaswamy
Durham: Duke University, 2015.
The allure of some of the most inspiring digital projects resides in their ability to recreate sites that are now lost to us, by reconstructing, for example, the now dismantled buildings and urban spaces of ancient Rome or the halls of Egyptian temples. Other projects are admired for the opposite capacity to invoke impossible worlds that never existed, bringing dispersed or even lost works of art together in virtual exhibitions, or positing material relationships that can only be imagined... Full Review
June 30, 2016
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Suzanne Preston Blier
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 595 pp.; 52 color ills.; 159 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9781107021662)
Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba: Ife History, Power, and Identity, c. 1300 is Suzanne Preston Blier’s most recent book, and represents a culmination of a research arc spanning from her days as a graduate student until the present. Drawing deeply from the existing archive of material published on the city of Ile-Ife (Ife) as well as her own interviews conducted over the first decade of the twenty-first century, Blier amasses a compendium on the city of Ife and the objects produced by its... Full Review
June 30, 2016
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Christa Clarke
New York and Philadelphia: Skira Rizzoli and Barnes Foundation, 2015. 296 pp.; many color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780847845217)
Christa Clarke’s African Art in the Barnes Foundation: The Triumph of L’Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance represents the latest scholarship on objects from the Barnes collection. As the title suggests, Clarke is concerned with recounting the history of Albert C. Barnes’s little-discussed yet incredibly significant collecting of artworks from Africa, as well as the relevance of these objects to the larger institution. Barnes amassed a sizeable and important collection of art at the... Full Review
June 30, 2016
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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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