If you access or use the journal, you accept these conditions.

Browse Recent Book Reviews

David Levi Strauss
New York: Aperture, 2014. 192 pp.; 25 ills. Paper $29.95 (9781597112710)
Thumbnail
July 2, 2015

In regards to documentary photography, the issue of responsibility—be it ethical, social, political, or a combination thereof—has been a central concern throughout its polemicized history. One could stretch that argument, along the line of memory, from the last photograph uploaded or tweeted onto the World Wide Web at precisely 00:00 tonight, to the first instances when human presence was registered on a photographic plate, as in the famous view of the Boulevard du Temple in...

Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal, and Sue Scott
New York: Prestel, 2013. 256 pp.; 185 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9783791347592)
Thumbnail
June 25, 2015

In the 1992 postscript to her essay “Patrilineage,” published in Art Journal the year prior, Mira Schor argued for the necessary interruption of male-dominated art history through the production of histories of and by women. “The method is really very simple,” she explained. “It will always be a man’s world unless one seeks out and values the women in it” (Mira Schor, “Patrilineage,” in Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture, Durham: Duke University Press,...

Stephen Houston
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 208 pp.; 43 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300196023)
Thumbnail
June 25, 2015

In this absorbing yet brief book, Stephen Houston, a noted Maya epigrapher and archaeologist, seeks to map out one of the core issues of the anthropology of art—materiality—within the ancient Maya context. The volume highlights in particular native attitudes toward the spirits or energies that reside within certain materials with which the Maya fashioned their visual culture. Over three main chapters, The Life Within: Classic Maya and the Matter of Permanence outlines varied dimensions of...

Janine Barchas
Austin: University of Texas, 2015.
Thumbnail
June 18, 2015

Art history would seem to be a discipline that could and should generate digital visualization projects—if only for the simple reason that the objects of study are already and easily found in digitized form. As evidenced by the number of workshops and conferences and the general buzz on the subject, the attention given to this type of project has intensified in the past few years; but there are still very few operational sites in the...

Lisa Florman
Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014. 280 pp.; 24 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Paper $25.95 (9780804784849)
Thumbnail
June 18, 2015

What did Wassily Kandinsky mean by “the spiritual in art”? In his long-canonical treatise Über das Geistige in der Kunst: Insbesondere in der Melerei (Concerning the Spiritual in Art: Especially in Painting) (Munich: R. Piper, 1912), the artist does not quite say, though he clearly conceives it in some opposition to the creeping materialism that he assails as the defining feature of the modern world. Scholars, seeking a tighter definition, have often seized on a...

Alessandra Mauro, ed.
London: Thames and Hudson, 2014. 276 pp.; 75 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $49.00 (978-0500544426)
Thumbnail
June 18, 2015

“Photography is not an Art. Neither is painting nor sculpture, literature nor music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings; the tools he uses in his creative art.” So Alfred Stieglitz provocatively proclaimed in his article “Is Photography a Failure?” printed in New York’s The Sun on March 14, 1922. For Stieglitz, a photographic image was a “picture” (rather than a mere “photograph,” which was the generic term he...

Samuel J. M. M. Alberti
Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2012. 256 pp.; 30 b/w ills. Paper £ 14.99 (9780719089039)
Thumbnail
June 12, 2015

As one walks down Oxford Road, the central artery of the University of Manchester’s campus, the imposing Gothic revival structure of the Manchester Museum creates a powerful impression of the ambitions of Victorian science. Samuel J. M. M. Alberti’s Nature and Culture: Objects, Disciplines and the Manchester Museum goes inside Alfred Waterhouse’s building to interrogate the history of the institution as seen through the display of its specimens. In so doing, Alberti’s stated aim is...

Anthony Colantuono and Steven F. Ostrow, eds.
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. 288 pp.; 110 ills. Cloth $84.95 (9780271061726)
Thumbnail
June 12, 2015

This important collection of essays originated in a symposium entitled “The Muse in the Marble: Plastic Arts and Aesthetic Theories in the Seventeenth Century” held at the American Academy in Rome in 2004. Anthony Colantuono, one of the two organizers, had the original idea to publish the papers. In 2008, he enlisted the help of Steven F. Ostrow, and the project gradually expanded, with several new essays commissioned from leading scholars. As the editors state...

Matthew Rampley
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013. 296 pp.; 18 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271061597)
Thumbnail
June 4, 2015

The “Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte,” the Vienna School of Art History, hardly needs an introduction today, as anyone interested in the history of academic art-history writing will have come across at least some of the recent literature in several languages, mostly devoted to one or other of the school’s chief protagonists, be it Alois Riegl, Max Dvořák, Hans Sedlmayr, or Ernst Gombrich. Julius von Schlosser’s account, still the most useful brief introduction, is now available...

Minou Schraven
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 338 pp.; 51 b/w ills. Cloth $124.95 (9780754665243)
Thumbnail
May 28, 2015

Scholarship across the disciplines on death and commemoration in the early modern era is rich. A significant new contribution is Minou Schraven’s Festive Funerals in Early Modern Italy: The Art and Culture of Conspicuous Commemoration. The volume focuses on the development of funeral apparati—ephemeral decorations for the celebration of requiem masses on behalf of ecclesiastical princes and heads of state—in sixteenth-century Rome, which evolved into increasingly spectacular displays. These formal changes paralleled new attitudes regarding...