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

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Elizabeth Prettejohn
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press in association with Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2017. 288 pp.; 130 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780300222753)

Consider two nineteenth-century paintings, made in the same year and same Europe, each alluding to a work by Titian. One is Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863), a picture central to the modernist canon. With simplified brushwork and pared-down tonality, Manet transplants Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) into contemporary Paris. The painting, which ventures a commentary on modern life through its presentation of the Venus as a modern woman, works because of its bold departure from... Full Review

November 18, 2019
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Thijs Weststeijn, Eric Jorink, and Frits Scholten, eds.
Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2016. 296 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $154.00 (9789004334977)
Stephanie Schrader, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. 160 pp.; 138 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9781606065525)
Getty Center, Los Angeles, March 13–June 24, 2018

“Is there such a thing as ‘global Netherlandish art’?” is the ambitious question with which Netherlandish Art in Its Global Context opens (7). A cohesive model of early modern art of the northern and southern provinces of the Netherlands is elusive to begin with, and the dimensions and significance of the global have been the subject of discussion within the humanities for decades now. If the question that informs this volume is unanswerable, the attempt is nonetheless... Full Review

November 14, 2019
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Pamela M. Jones, Barbara Wisch, and Simon Ditchfield, eds.
Brill's Companions to European History. Leiden, the Netherlands and Boston: Brill, 2019. 656 pp.; 119 ills. Cloth $206.00 (9789004391963)

A Companion to Early Modern Rome brings together thirty new essays that together offer a fresh perspective on the politics, urbanism, art, and culture of Rome between 1492 and 1692. The volume is an outstanding summary of the state of research and a showcase for innovative work across a wide range of disciplines. Each essay presents a succinct and focused discussion, with an analysis of previous literature and a conclusion that outlines possibilities for future research.... Full Review

November 11, 2019
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Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh
Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019. 436 pp.; 26 ills. Cloth $30.00 (9780804790444)

Genocide, that most horrific of crimes, does not leave untouched any fragment of human identity. Yet for genocide to succeed, it must not only extinguish individual human lives—it must erase all traces of the presence of a people, of a people’s identity. While we often focus on the human subject as victim of genocide, the vehemence with which cultural atrocities are perpetrated, and the chilling consistency with which they occur in tandem with the elimination of human lives, makes... Full Review

November 5, 2019
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Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh, eds.
Visual and Media Histories. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015. 270 pp. Hardcover $140.00 (9781138796010)
Rebecca M. Brown
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 20 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (9780295999944)

These two recent studies of museological and display histories in/of South Asia stand out in the fields of both art history and museum studies. The rather intriguing title of Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh’s edited volume, No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying, is taken from a signboard at the entrance to an Indian museum that gives the code of conduct to which visitors are expected to adhere. Assumedly, the sign is intended for “unsophisticated” viewers whose everyday worlds... Full Review

November 1, 2019
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Macarena Gómez-Barris
American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. 160 pp. Paper $18.95 (9780520296671)

In the conclusion to Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Americas, Macarena Gómez-Barris exhorts the reader to “look beyond electoral politics [of the nation-state] to strengthen already existing networks of possibility” (109). In this brief yet provocative study, she provides the reader with a model of analysis that shores up South-South linkages, privileges queer and indigenous perspectives, and denaturalizes national boundaries. Gómez-Barris champions the... Full Review

October 31, 2019
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Joanna Grabski
African Expressive Cultures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 328 pp.; 57 color ills. Paper $20.00 (9780253026057)

Art World City is a beautiful book. The photographs, most of which are by the author, are stunning, and all are in color thanks to support from the CAA Millard Meiss Publication Fund. In a book whose purpose is to situate a major international city and its artists into a complex... Full Review

October 30, 2019
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Dorothy C. Wong
Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2018. 366 pp.; 12 color ills.; 125 b/w ills. Cloth $52.00 (9789814722599)

Students of East Asian art are often told that the “Tang International Buddhist Art Style” or “International Buddhist Art Style” begins when the hips of Buddhist deities sway gracefully to one side (1). The voluptuous yet narrow-waisted bodies of bodhisattvas standing in contrapposto with an Indian flavor are seen as a hallmark of Chinese Buddhist art in the Tang dynasty (618–907). This figural type can be found across Japan and Korea by the eighth century, but what exactly is this... Full Review

October 25, 2019
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Kathleen Bickford Berzock, ed.
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 312 pp.; 192 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691182681)
Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, January 26–July 21, 2019; Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, September 21, 2019–February 23, 2020; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, April 8–November 29, 2020

The project of recentering histories is at the core of both the exhibition and catalog Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa. When art historians speak of recentering, the contemporary art world, biennials, and online media spring to mind quite readily, but shifting perceptions can seem Sisyphean in earlier time periods. Bringing the discursive practice of recentering to fruition in an exhibition of the medieval world requires... Full Review

October 24, 2019
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Joshua Rivkin
Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2018. 496 pp.; 22 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (9781612197180)

“This, dear reader, is not a biography. This is something, I hope, stranger and more personal,” writes Joshua Rivkin at the outset of Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (10). “More personal” turns out to mean “more about the author than the subject.” The first-person pronoun abounds; the first of many occurrences of “I” is very early indeed (xiii). If “more personal” is also meant to include the reader as a personal addressee of the text, this too is prominent. “We” joins “I”... Full Review

October 21, 2019
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