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

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Catherine David, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2016. 240 pp.; 330 color ills. Paperback $45.00 (9781849763721)
Tate Modern, September 16, 2016–January 8, 2017
Tate Modern’s wide-ranging, twelve-room retrospective The EY Exhibition examined the complex and politically aesthetic body of work produced by the internationally renowned Cuban Surrealist painter and ceramicist Wifredo Lam (1902–82). Lam achieved fame at an early stage in his career, and his artistic legacy positions him as one of the most influential artists of color to have globalized and pluralized the modernist movement.The texts and illustrations in the comprehensive... Full Review
February 8, 2018
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Ittai Weinryb
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 305 pp.; 108 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Hardcover (9781107123618)
In 1935 Otto von Falke and Erich Meyer published the first volume of Bronzegeräte des Mittelalters (Bronze Utensils of the Middle Ages), the long-running series of corpus-wide surveys of bronze objects (door knockers, cross bases, lavabos, etc.), whose seventh installment, Hiltrud Westermann-Angerhausen’s corpus of censers from ca. 800–1500, appeared in 2014. Each volume consists of a catalogue, rigorously formalist in method, prefaced by an introduction to the history, form,... Full Review
February 8, 2018
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Benjamin Anderson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 216 pp.; 67 color ills.; 10 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300219166)
In Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art, Benjamin Anderson studies three cultures—Frankish, Umayyad, and Byzantine—to examine how each used cosmological imagery to express social and political relationships between the ruler and the people. That zodiac imagery has remained stable from antiquity to the present allows for this type of study. For those unfamiliar with the history of zodiac and cosmos studies, Anderson provides a logical and helpful... Full Review
February 7, 2018
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Annie Bourneuf
The University of Chicago Press, 2015. 256 pp.; 60 color ills.; 7 b/w ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9780226091181)
Annie Bourneuf’s monograph Paul Klee: The Visible and the Legible is a brilliantly written and meticulously researched contribution to the reinterpretation of classical modernism. Each of the three main chapters attends to a group of works and concepts that are central to the canonical artist Paul Klee. The study analyzes pictures and texts from the period between 1916 and 1923, from the small-format graphics, which were produced during World War I, and early... Full Review
February 7, 2018
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Uri McMillan
New York: NYU Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 6 color ills.; 38 b/w ills. Paperback $29.00 (9781479852475)
In the classic art-historical telling, performance art was birthed around 1910 in Italy by a group of men who incited audience riots with ideological and aesthetic provocations at their Futurist serata, or evenings. Fast-forward to the 1950s, and body-based art emerges as one of several tactics to dematerialize the art object and resist easy commodification of one’s artistic endeavors—a concern primarily for those testing the boundaries of, rather than fighting for access to, the... Full Review
February 7, 2018
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Jennifer Liese, ed.
Brooklyn: Paper Monument, 2016. 544 pp.; 8 b/w ills. Paper $28.00 (9780979757587)
In Social Medium: Artists Writing, 2000–2015, Jennifer Liese brings together seventy-five texts by contemporary artists working in diverse media, including such well-known practitioners as Mira Schor, Xu Bing, Coco Fusco, Ryan Trecartin, Adrian Piper, and Mike Kelley. As becomes clear in the introduction, Liese—the director of the Writing Center at Rhode Island School of Design—aims to show that artists in the twenty-first century are not only writing more but also expanding the... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Kathleen Curran
Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2016. 256 pp.; 119 b/w ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9781606064788)
Despite the growth of museum-history scholarship in recent decades, there is still much to learn about museums’ origins and development. Kathleen Curran’s skillfully researched and richly illustrated book is a stimulating contribution to this field, especially regarding collections and display practices among the first generation of major American art museums as they matured. These include the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (both founded in... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. 400 pp.; 365 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9781588395641)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 12, 2015–January 24, 2016
Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, along with its corresponding exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a much-needed and long sought-after addition to the corpus of Egyptological studies. With the exception of such classic treatises as Wolfram Grajetzki’s The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: History, Archaeology and Society (London: Duckworth Egyptology, 2006) and the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Pharaohs and Mortals: Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom... Full Review
February 6, 2018
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Daniel Magaziner
New African Histories. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2016. 376 pp.; 92 ills. Paperback $34.95 (9780821422526)
The Art of Life in South Africa is not an art-history book, but every page addresses both art and history. Magaziner, a historian, uses art education in apartheid-era South Africa as a window into the experience of living in a repressive state, and the complicated, nuanced ways in which trainees and teachers adapted to, and thrived in spite of, that state. Art making is an act of self-expression, an intervention to make the world more beautiful, which seems wholly incongruous with... Full Review
February 5, 2018
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Lynne Zelevansky, Elizabeth Sussman, James Rondeau, Donna De Salvo, and Anna Katherine Brodbeck
Exh. cat. New York: Prestel, 2016. 320 pp.; 291 color ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9783791355221)
Carnegie Museum of Art, October 1, 2016–January 2, 2017; Art Institute of Chicago, February 18–May 7, 2017; Whitney Museum of American Art, July 14–October 1, 2017
As installed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium provided a salient comment on the artist who perhaps best represents the new canon of twentieth-century Latin American art. This canon is grounded in three pillars of Oiticica’s work: abstraction, participation, and conceptualism. I have previously argued that in the Global North this canon was first consolidated by Héctor Olea and Mari Carmen Ramírez’s seminal exhibition Heterotopías /... Full Review
February 5, 2018
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