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

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Franklin Sirmans and Yael Lipschutz, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and London: Prestel, Delmonico, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015. 128 pp.; 80  color ills.; 24 b/w ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9783791354347)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 7, 2015–January 3, 2016
Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada takes an in-depth look at the artistic and biographical journey of the under-recognized African American artist and activist, Noah Purifoy (1917–2004) and his large-scale installation and home environment, the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum (1989–2004). This lush catalogue, richly illustrated with eighty photographs by Fredrik Nilsen, features insightful essays by Yael Lipschutz, art critic and archivist of the Noah Purifoy Foundation in Joshua Tree, California;... Full Review
September 20, 2018
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Diarmuid Costello
New York: Routledge, 2018. 166 pp.; 12 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780415684491)
Diarmuid Costello’s book brings together an abundance of historical and analytical debates to make clear that the philosophy of photography is a delineated field in its own right. Although the title On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry reflects Susan Sontag’s seminal book and may bring to mind Vilém Flusser’s attempt to single-handedly philosophize photography, it is in no sense similar to those approaches. Costello has gathered a rich corpus of philosophical thoughts on two... Full Review
September 17, 2018
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Alessia Frassani
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. 256 pp.; 46 color ills.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806157566)
In her microhistory of Yanhuitlan, a town in the rugged Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca, Mexico, Alessia Frassani complicates our understanding of the collaborative and enduring interchange of indigenous and European constituencies in New Spanish society. Although historians attempting to reconstruct the dynamics of an ancient, multiethnic community often discover that their evidence is random and scarce, the documentation of Yanhuitlan, in stone, wood, and paper, is fortuitously consistent.... Full Review
September 14, 2018
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Lynne Cooke
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: University of Chicago Press and National Gallery of Art, 2018. 448 pp.; 450 color ills.; 467 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780226522272)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, January 28–May 13, 2018; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, June 24–September 30, 2018; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, November 18, 2018–March 18, 2019
Outliers and American Vanguard Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, offers an ambitious study of the significance of self-taught art to the production of mainstream US American artists. The expansive exhibition presents more than 250 works by 84 artists and is organized around three historic periods that, argues its curator Lynne Cooke, saw a surge in formal support for objects made beyond the conventional bounds of the art world: 1924–43, 1968–92, and 1998–2013.... Full Review
September 12, 2018
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Allison Morehead
Refiguring Modernism (Book 21). University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 264 pp.; 51 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Hardcover $89.95 (9780271076744)
Gustave Kahn’s characterization of Symbolism as “the exteriorization of the Idea” is usually explained as the Symbolists privileging the imagination over a naturalistic art practice that reproduced the visible world. In Nature’s Experiments and the Search for Symbolist Form, Allison Morehead reorients this quotation and Symbolist art itself toward science, specifically the experimental method. One of the crucial arguments in Nature’s Experiments is that even as positivism was... Full Review
September 10, 2018
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Jessica L. Fripp, Amandine Gorse, Nathalie Manceau, and Nina Struckmeyer, eds.
Paris: Mare & Martin, 2016. 296 pp.; 15 color ills. Paperback € 35.00 (9791092054422)
The edited volume, as a scholarly format, has proliferated in recent years but is too seldom celebrated. Its demands—principally brevity when it comes to individual essays—and its overall capaciousness produce texts and experiences of discovery this reviewer cherishes. When it comes to the topic of sociability, moreover, there could scarcely be a more appropriate form of presentation. If all books are social—collaborations linking author, editor, copyeditor, indexer, designer, printer, and... Full Review
September 7, 2018
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Laura Anne Kalba
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 288 pp.; 108 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Hardcover $84.95 (978-0-271-07700-0)
And then there was color. In short, this is the theme of Laura Kalba’s fascinating study, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, which chronicles the explosion of vivid (and often artificial) colors in everyday life in late nineteenth-century France. Explaining the science and technology behind the making of both new as well as more saturated traditional colors, the book traces the many experiential and epistemic shifts that attended consumers’ willing... Full Review
September 4, 2018
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John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier
New York: Liveright, 2015. 320 pp.; Many color ills.; Many  b/w ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9780871404688)
Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American has already received admiring reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, and New Republic among other media outlets. The 2015 book by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier is worth returning to here for what it offers specifically to artists and art historians. Pulling together extensive images of and writings... Full Review
August 31, 2018
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Jonathan J. G. Alexander
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 456 pp.; 100 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9780300203981)
Jonathan Alexander became aware of the lack of a survey in English of Italian Renaissance illumination while preparing the groundbreaking exhibition The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450–1550, held in London and New York in 1994–95 (exh. cat., 1994). He took up the challenge equipped not only with a profound knowledge of painting in Italian books, but also an extraordinary background in manuscript studies. He has published essential monographs and catalogues... Full Review
August 29, 2018
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Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley, eds.
Exh. cat. London: D.A.P./Tate, 2017. 256 pp. Hardcover $39.95 (9781942884170)
Tate Modern, London, July 12–October 22, 2017; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AZ, February 3–April 23, 2018; Brooklyn Museum, September 14–February 3, 2019; The Broad, Los Angeles, March 23–September 1, 2019
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power offers an expansive view of the depth and breadth of American art in the heady, dizzying years of black activism between 1963 and 1983. While the book accompanies the exhibition of the same name, it is less of an exhibition catalogue and more of a compendium of micro histories, essays, reflections, images, and memories of one of the most dynamic periods in the history of American art. A period when the politics of blackness drove a new... Full Review
August 28, 2018
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