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

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Karina H. Corrigan, Jan van Campen, Femke Diercks, and Janet C. Blyberg, eds.
Exh. cat. Salem, MA and Amsterdam: Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2015. 356 pp.; 305 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300212877)
Exhibition schedule: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, October 17, 2015–January 17, 2016; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, February 27–June 5, 2016
Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age is an illustrated catalogue produced to accompany the Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum exhibition of the same name. Focusing attention on the important role the Dutch played in facilitating and celebrating the material results of cross-cultural trade, it draws together a collection of stunning objects that were exchanged between Europe and Asia in the seventeenth century. The objects selected are remarkably wide-ranging not... Full Review
March 8, 2017
Reiko Tomii
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 18 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $36.95 (9780262034128)
Reiko Tomii’s Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan is an impeccably researched and well-written contribution to the modernist art history of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. It also presents a challenge to an art history of modernisms beyond Euramerica. The research deals via case studies with a particular Japanese conceptual artist, Matsuzawa Yutaka (1922–2006); a performance and happenings group called The Play centred in the Kansai; and a... Full Review
March 3, 2017
Laurinda S. Dixon
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2013. 264 pp.; 62 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271059365)
In a brief epilogue to The Dark Side of Genius: The Melancholic Persona in Art, ca. 1500–1700, Laurinda Dixon connects the “nerds” and “geeks” of today’s culture with the intellectual tradition that is her primary subject (190). From medieval ascetics to Renaissance stargazers, intellectuals of the past, like their modern counterparts, were often considered oddballs whose unconventional ideas were greeted as more deluded or dangerous than transformational. From ancient Greece to the... Full Review
March 2, 2017
Philippe Geinoz
Histoire des idées et critique littéraire, Volume 480. Geneva: Librarie Droz, 2014. 559 pp.; 10 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Paper €47.40 (9782600017947)
As a literary genre, the thèse- or habilitation-turned-book will have few genuine enthusiasts. These texts are long and often not very lively. Among the examples I’ve encountered, Philippe Geinoz’s Relations au travail: Dialogue entre poésie et peinture à l’époque du cubism: Apollinaire-Picasso-Braque-Gris-Reverdy [Relations at work: Dialogue between poetry and painting in the cubist epoch--Apollinaire, Picasso, Braque, Gris, Reverdy] is among the very best. Indeed, if I... Full Review
March 2, 2017
Derek Conrad Murray
London: I.B. Taurus, 2016. 256 pp.; 8 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (9781784532871)
Amid a litany of compelling critical-theory trajectories that have garnered attention over the last twenty or so years (Afrofuturism, Afro-Pessimism, etc.) and a wave of ideas about how blackness circulates as an object of theoretical inquiry as interiority, form, materiality, flesh, and most recently “liquidity,” no term is perhaps more contested (in both public and academic spheres) than the subject of Derek Conrad Murray’s new book—post-blackness. According to Murray, an art historian and... Full Review
Erin J. Campbell
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 216 pp.; 16 color ills.; 17 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781472442130)
In De institutione feminae christianae (On the Education of Christian Women, 1524), Juan Luis Vives wrote of elderly women, “When a woman is free of all carnal desire and has fulfilled her duties of bearing and bringing up children, she will emanate an odor that is more heavenly than earthly, and shall say and do nothing but what is of great sanctity and may serve as an example to those younger than she. ‘Then her name will begin to be known,’ as Gorgias said, ‘when her face is... Full Review
February 23, 2017
Suzanne P. Hudson
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. 315 pp.; 112 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780262012805)
Robert Ryman’s paintings are indifferent to discourse. They require no insider knowledge or textual elaboration. On the contrary, words often only muddy the waters. In Ryman’s words, “You cannot understand painting by explaining something. You can only understand painting by experience” (192). This makes the task of writing about Ryman’s work exceedingly difficult. However, in Robert Ryman: Used Paint, Suzanne Hudson writes with eloquence and perspicuity to bring Ryman’s work to a... Full Review
February 22, 2017
Ulrike Gehring and Peter Weibel, eds.
Munich: Hirmer, 2014. 512 pp.; 350 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9783777422305)
Elizabeth A. Sutton
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 184 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780226254784)
The two books under review offer distinct takes on the way space was understood and reproduced in the Low Countries (the Dutch Republic, in particular, although both volumes explore Flemish sources as well). Both are concerned with the production of space in two-dimensional forms—in maps, prints, and paintings, above all. And while the arguments and claims made by the respective volumes are not quite mutually exclusive, the implications and trajectories they sketch out are markedly... Full Review
February 16, 2017
Gordon Hughes
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 169 pp.; 92 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226159065)
I inevitably discuss Alfred Barr’s 1936 diagram from the cover of Cubism and Abstract Art when I teach surveys of modernism, but I had never noticed a curious point that Gordon Hughes raises in the introduction of his Resisting Abstraction: Robert Delaunay and Vision in the Face of Modernism. Of all the movements charted along the way to the two destinations, non-geometrical and geometrical abstract art, only Orphism “goes exactly nowhere” (3). In his sumptuously illustrated and... Full Review
February 16, 2017
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and Richard J. Powell
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014. 224 pp. Cloth $42.00 (9780876332498)
Exhibition schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, January 10–April 5, 2015
Represent: 200 Years of African American Art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art is that institution’s first survey of their collection of art by Americans of African descent. Each of the essays in the catalogue provides critical justifications for treating art and craftsmanship produced by African Americans as separate from a larger body of American art, while also noting the tenuousness of doing so. In the catalogue’s foreword, Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) Director and Chief... Full Review
February 14, 2017