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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Rachel Sailor
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2014. 240 pp.; 106 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780826354228)
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January 22, 2015

That the histories of photography and of the American West are intertwined is a truism in histories and theories of photography, one most frequently evoked in studies on expeditionary and geological survey photographs by such notables as William Henry Jackson and Timothy O’Sullivan. Rachel McLean Sailor’s copiously illustrated history of western regional photography does much to ground that truism in the particulars of the medium’s technological evolution and in the region’s events. Meaningful Places: Landscape...

Ethan Matt Kavaler
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. 344 pp.; 80 color ills.; 210 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300167924)
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January 22, 2015

In the Lombeek altarpiece in Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Lombeek (Belgium), created by artists from Brussels in ca. 1525, ornamental fields vary with the biblical subject matter of the figural scenes and, indeed, sustain a secondary discourse. As Ethan Matt Kavaler writes in Renaissance Gothic: Architecture and the Arts in Northern Europe, 1470–1540, “Forced to assimilate the tabernacles [above the figures] to the realm of human actors, [a] viewer might think of the visible world as a...

Paul Taylor, ed.
London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014. 144 pp.; 20 ills. Paper £ 20.00 (9781907372544)
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January 15, 2015

This book originated in a colloquium held at the Warburg Institute in London in June 2009, and the contributors have had ample time to finesse their papers. The editor is to be congratulated for his work in ensuring an improved and coherent collection of essays. He notes at the outset that the authors are “enthusiastic amateurs in the world of Gombrich studies, rather than scholars with the learning to assign him a fixed place in...

Fredrika Jacobs
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 248 pp.; 8 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Cloth $99.00 (9781107023048)
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January 15, 2015

Fredrika Jacobs’s appealing Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy joins a wave of recent studies on the art of religious devotion in early modern Italy, offering yet another approach to this rich and rapidly developing field. (Full disclosure: my own contribution, Printed Icon: Forlì’s Madonna of the Fire in Early Modern Italy, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.) Unlike, for instance, Marcia Hall’s The Sacred Image in the Age of Art: Titian,...

J. C. H. King, Max Carocci, Caroline Cartwright, Colin McEwan, and Rebecca Stacey, eds.
London: Archetype Publications in association with British Museum, 2012. 239 pp.; 245 color ills.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $95.00 (9781904982791)
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January 8, 2015

For at least twenty centuries before the European invasions of the 1500s, artists from the Pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica and the southwestern United States elaborated a wide range of elite objects with mosaic tesserae, including human and animal skulls, scepters, knife handles, diadems, pectoral ornaments, masks, disks, plaques, and jewelry for the ear, nose, and lips. Maya, Mixtec, Aztec, and Ancestral Puebloan artists fashioned the tesserae from a variety of culturally significant materials, including jade,...

Elihu Rubin
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. 256 pp.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (9780300170184)
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January 2, 2015

For nigh on fifty years, it has been fashionable to denounce mid-century urban renewal projects, as well as the planners and politicians who brought them into being. Even as the bulldoze-and-build movement reached its zenith in the 1960s, many Americans began to develop posthumous nostalgia for quaint, tumbledown neighborhoods that were rent asunder to make way for superblocks, highways, and modernist behemoths. This widespread sentiment gave rise to a cottage industry of screeds against urban...

Pamela A. Patton
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012. 220 pp.; 23 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271053837)
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December 3, 2014

Pamela A. Patton’s Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain makes an important contribution to the already rich field of medieval art and Jewish-Christian relations. Scholars such as Bernhard Blumenkranz, Michael Camille, Ruth Mellinkoff, Heinz Schreckenberg, Sara Lipton, Debra Higgs Strickland, Mitchell Merback, Vivian Mann, Nina Rowe, Herbert Kessler, and David Nirenberg, among others, have examined the ways in which Christian art expresses perceptions of Jews and Judaism.[1] As Patton points out, these studies...

Stephanie Smith, ed.
Exh. cat. Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2013. 380 pp.; 320 color ills. Paper $45.00 (9780935573527)

Exhibition schedule: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, February 16–June 10, 2012; Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, Houston, August 31, 2013–January 5, 2014; SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, February 1–May 17, 2014; Gund Gallery, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, July 25–November 30, 2014; Weisman Art Museum, University at Minnesota, Minneapolis, January 31–May 10, 2015

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December 3, 2014

Over the last twenty-five years, meals constructed by artists as art have flourished through a range of itinerant arts initiatives in public and private spaces and become recent programmatic mainstays in galleries and museums around the world, giving the impression that these works are a contemporary trend. Yet, in the 1930s the Italian Futurists generated a body of work about food that predated these artist projects—opening a restaurant, La Taverna del Santopalato (Tavern of the...

Glenn Willumson
Berkeley: Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts, 2013. 254 pp.; few b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780520270947)
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November 26, 2014

Glenn Willumson’s Iron Muse: Photographing the Transcontinental Railroad begins with a discussion of a photograph by Andrew Joseph Russell titled East and West Shaking Hands at Laying Last Rail (no. 227) (1869), also known as Meeting of the Rails, Promontory, Utah, 1869. The photograph features workers and executives from the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad celebrating the completion of the transcontinental line. Willumson starts by analyzing how Russell’s photograph is often reproduced...

Eduardo Cadava and Gabriela Nouzeilles, eds.
Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 2013. 240 pp.; 135 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300174366)

Exhibition schedule: Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, September 7, 2013–January 19, 2014

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November 26, 2014

There is a kind of fatigue in recent literature on photography. The ritual of declaring a ubiquitous abundance of photographic images, both historical and contemporary, is usually accompanied by a compulsion to address this situation and a requirement to analyze them. But how, in what framework, and to what ends? Understanding photography as a journey, as a set of “itinerant languages,” is one way to respond to this challenge. The Itinerant Languages of Photography, edited...