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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Alejandro de la Fuente, ed.
Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. 348 pp.; 450 color ills.; 210 b/w ills. Paper $49.95 (9780822962557)
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April 16, 2015

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Drapetomanía: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba, this volume is on a mission. Grupo Antillano, a diverse group of artists and intellectuals, was active in Cuba between 1978–83—spanning the moment (1981) when the so-called “New Cuban Art” first rose to prominence. But while the latter movement has become the global face of contemporary Cuban art, the work of Antillano is all but unknown, whether on the island...

Hans Belting
Munich: C.H. Beck, 2013. 343 pp.; 58 color ills.; 76 b/w ills. € 29.95 (9783406644306)
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April 16, 2015

It seems fitting to approach a book about faces by starting with an examination of the publication’s own face, namely its cover. On first view of Hans Belting’s new book, Faces: Eine Geschichte des Gesichts, only the white and yellow letters of the title emerge clearly. A second look is necessary to make out the female figure located behind the text; it is a portrait of the famous U.S. photographer Lee Miller, taken ca. 1927...

James M. Córdova
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014. 288 pp.; 16 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780292753150)
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April 9, 2015

In The Art of Professing in Bourbon Mexico: Crowned-Nun Portraits and Reform in the Convent, James M. Córdova contributes to the current scholarly discourse about gender and identity formation in late-colonial Mexico through a multifaceted examination of monjas coronadas (crowned-nun) paintings, portraits of women at the time of their profession into the religious life. Expanding on previous research, Córdova investigates these images in the shifting world of viceregal Mexico and offers thorough analyses and new...

Stacey Sloboda
Studies in Design. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014. 272 pp.; 72 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth £ 70.00 (9780719089459)
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April 2, 2015

The publication of Stacey Sloboda’s Chinoiserie: Commerce and Critical Ornament in Eighteenth-Century Britain demonstrates the extent to which histories of Britain’s commercial past have broadened over the last fifteen years. In this period consumption, and more specifically ideas of luxury and novelty, have become key to the debate (see Maxine Berg and Helen Clifford, eds., Consumers and Luxury: Consumer Culture in Europe 1650–1850, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999; and Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger, eds.,...

Paul B. Niell and Stacie G. Widdifield, eds.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013. 328 pp.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 ( 9780826353764)
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April 2, 2015

In Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1780–1910, Paul B. Niell and Stacie G. Widdifield have collected twelve essays that explore the variations and limits of the stylistic-cultural term “neoclassicism” and how the social-aesthetic concept of good taste intertwined with and inflected upon it. To a certain extent, this book treads a lengthy investigative path walked by earlier generations of art historians, such as Josef Strzygowski, Alois Riegl, or George...

Michael Ann Holly
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. 224 pp.; 41 b/w ills. Cloth $24.95 (9780691139340)
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April 2, 2015

In The Melancholy Art, Michael Ann Holly has provided a strikingly poignant articulation of some of the more trenchant conundrums of what in modernity has come to be fabricated as the discipline of art history—an academic field whose distinctiveness, in her words, “generated by the physical nearness of its objects . . . can quicken certain reflections on the psychic undercurrents of the historical temperament” (xii). But how might melancholy help art historians to come...

Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, eds.
Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. 408 pp.; 20 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (9780822355410)
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March 26, 2015

The affective turn in the humanities and social sciences has only very recently started to have an impact on writing about photography. To date, the main books published on the topic are: Barbie Zelizer’s About to Die: How News Images Move the Public (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Suzie Linfield’s The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010) (click here for review); Sharon Sliwinski’s Human Rights in Camera (Chicago: Chicago University...

Elizabeth Hill Boone and Gary Urton, eds.
Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Symposia and Colloquia. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oakes Research Library and Collection, 2012. 422 pp.; 55 color ills.; 136 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780884023685)
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March 19, 2015

Their Way of Writing is the material record of “Scripts, Signs, and Notational Systems in Pre-Columbian America,” a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in October 2008. Framing contributions by symposiarchs Gary Urton (chapter 1) and Elizabeth Hill Boone (chapter 15) contain thirteen case studies from both Mesoamerica (chapters 2–9) and the Andes (chapters 10–14). Accompanied by black-and-white and color illustrations—including several never-before-published images from the Andes—these contributions vary widely in their level of legibility to...

Marcia Pointon
London: Reaktion Books, 2013. 272 pp.; 45 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9781780230412)
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March 19, 2015

Marcia Pointon’s scholarship over the past three decades on eighteenth-century British portraiture has shaped art-historical understanding of the genre in that period. Her most recent publication, Portrayal and the Search for Identity, compiles five essays that return to the topic while also examining materials across a wide chronological and geographic span. Defining portraiture as “a tool that makes possible the registering of identity in relation to the social” (11), Pointon’s essays strongly move to sever...

Esra Akcan
Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. 408 pp.; 143 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (9780822353089)
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March 12, 2015

Esra Akcan’s new book on architecture, housing, and the exchange of ideas between Germany and Turkey after the foundation in 1923 of the Turkish Republic is an important addition to the growing body of literature on modern architecture in the late Ottoman and early Turkish states. With the groundbreaking work of Zeynep Çelik followed by significant newer studies by Sibel Bozdoğan, among others, the analysis of Turkish architecture has taken a more prominent role in...