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

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Mickalene Thomas
Exh. cat. New York: Aperture, 2015. 156 pp.; 85 ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9781597113144)
Aperture Foundation, New York, January 28–March 17, 2016
Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs is a ten-year retrospective of selections of Thomas’s paintings and photographs from 2001 to 2011. The book was the basis for the exhibition Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête presented at the Aperture Foundation Gallery in New York from January 28 to March 17, 2016. The large-format photograph on the book’s cover, Din, une très belle négresse #1 (2012), is a study in mustard, black, white, and gray of a portrait... Full Review
April 25, 2018
Cynthia Hahn
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 312 pp.; 43 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Paper $51.95 (9780271059488)
Medieval reliquaries—metalwork and bejeweled objects housing the relics of saints—often inspire analyses predicated on theories of signs, meaning, and the relationship of text to visual matter. Reliquaries demand such modes of inquiry. They layer their signifying strategies, which range from enamel images to patterned jewel inlay to poetic inscription to crystal windows mediating the display of the enshrined relic. Because they participate in so many sign systems, relics and reliquaries... Full Review
April 24, 2018
Suzanne P. Hudson
Afterall. Cambridge and London: Afterall Books, 2017. 96 pp.; 16 color ills. Paperback $19.95 (9781846381713)
Suzanne Hudson’s contribution to the One Work series by Afterall (a research center of the University of the Arts London, located at Central Saint Martins) is focused on Night Sea, a painting by Agnes Martin (1912–2004) that Martin completed in 1963. The series is unique in its focus on the critical elaboration, by notable authors in the field, of individual works of art. Suzanne Hudson, associate professor of Art History and Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, has... Full Review
April 23, 2018
Yale University and National Endowment for the Humanities
Yale University and National Endowment for the Humanities, 2017.
Between 1935 and 1944 the US Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) commissioned a collection of 170,000 photographs. Ostensibly a public relations project to promote Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s... Full Review
April 23, 2018
Laurence Terrier Aliferis
Turnhout: Brepols, 2016. 343 pp.; 359 b/w ills. Paperback €125.00 (9782503553177)
Late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century art in northern Europe is often noted for its similarities to Classical art, as evidenced most famously in Nicholas of Verdun’s altar at Klosterneuberg, of 1181; the sculpture of Laon and Chartres; and the Ingeborg Psalter, of ca. 1195. The idea of a “Year 1200 Style,” however, as Konrad Hoffman dubbed it in his catalogue for the The Year 1200 exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1970, has been considered problematic from... Full Review
April 20, 2018
andré m. carrington
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 35 b/w ills. Paperback $25.00 (9780816678969)
Depending on the context of its usage, the Spanish term género is definable as either “gender” or “genre.” Katherine Clay Bassard takes up this dichotomy in line with questions of literacy when she opines that “[i]n speaking of gender and genre, then, [she works] from the assumption that form is not merely a matter of free choice or appropriate models but a function of how a writer perceives her/himself in the social order.”<a... Full Review
April 20, 2018
Peter N. Lindfield
Suffolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2017. 282 pp.; 59 color ills. Hardcover $99.00 (9781783271276)
Volume 8 in Boydell’s Medievalism series, Peter N. Lindfield’s Georgian Gothic: Medievalist Architecture, Furniture and Interiors, 1730–1840 explores the nuances of and developments in the early Gothic Revival. Lindfield couches his study within the growing appreciation of the Gothic, discussing how leading Gothic Revival architects (Kent, Essex, Wyatt), antiquarians (Carter, Rickman), and Gothic proponents (Gray, Warton, Walpole) crucially impacted the history of design. Working in... Full Review
April 19, 2018
Massumeh Farhad and Simon Rettig, eds.
Exh. cat. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2016. 384 pp.; 260 ills. Hardcover $50.00 (9781588345783)
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC, October 22, 2016–February 20, 2017
The exhibition The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, on view just a few steps from the White House in Washington, DC, was the first major exhibition of Qur’an manuscripts in the United States, and timely in countering the fast-growing anti-Muslim rhetoric even though it was not envisioned with such an aim. Along with its publication, under review here, the exhibition offered a nuanced understanding of the Qur’an’s role in Islamic societies and... Full Review
April 19, 2018
Bissera V. Pentcheva
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 50 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (9780271077253)
Although much researched, the Justinian church of Hagia Sophia (532–37 and 562) proves to be a still unfathomable well of architectural revelations that bear on the building’s significance as a monument of Byzantine spirituality. This book is a welcome contribution that offers conceptual vistas through which to understand the metaphysical effects of the building’s material and artistic fabric.Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium centers on... Full Review
April 18, 2018
Angela Ho
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017. 272 pp. Hardcover €105.00 (9789462982970)
Angela Ho’s Creating Distinctions in Dutch Genre Painting: Repetition and Invention is a groundbreaking book that explores the phenomena of repetition and invention as they pertain to the work of the most outstanding genre painters active in the Dutch Republic during the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Ho focuses on three of the leading masters during this period: Gerrit Dou, Gerard ter Borch, and Frans van Mieris, who collectively helped to raise this art to an... Full Review
April 17, 2018