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

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Anna Dezeuze
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. 344 pp.; 72 b/w ills. Paperback €19.99 (9781526112903)
Anna Dezeuze’s ambitious book Almost Nothing: Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art establishes a lineage for work from the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s that engages with the issue of precariousness. Dezeuze compellingly argues that, beginning in the late 1950s, artists began to mine a conceptually fertile vein of lived experiences at the margins—whether actual or assumed. She understands the term “precarious” as established by the... Full Review
May 1, 2018
Tamar Garb and Fiona Bradley, eds.
Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2017. 192 pp.; 120 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9781908612410 )
Rosalind E. Krauss, ed.
Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017. 208 pp.; 53 b/w ills. Paperback $22.95 (9780262533454)
Last year saw the publication of two excellent books about William Kentridge, the first of which accompanied an exhibition of his work, paired with that of fellow South African artist Vivienne Koorland, curated by Tamar Garb at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. The three met in Cape Town the mid-1970s (Koorland painted Garb’s portrait in 1977), and it was Garb’s long relationship with Kentridge and Koorland that inspired her to curate the show.In the catalogue’s introductory... Full Review
May 1, 2018
Adrienne L. Childs and Susan H. Libby, eds.
Exh. cat. Giles, 2017. 80 pp.; 55 color ills. Paperback $30.00 (9781907804496)
Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, January 14–May 14, 2017
This catalogue of a relatively small but important exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is devoted to depictions of black Africans and people of the African diaspora produced by Western European artists (British, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Danish) between the mid-eighteenth century and the 1890s. The volume begins with a short, pithy introduction by David Bindman, the general editor of Harvard University Press’s Image of the Black in Western Art series.... Full Review
April 30, 2018
Melissa Barton
New Haven: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 2017. 144 pp.; 140 color ills. Paper over Board $25.00 (9780300225617)
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (01/13/17–04/17/17)
In Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Jacques Derrida theorizes the archive in terms of two conflicting forces: the pleasure principle (eros) and the death drive (thanatos). Through these antithetical terms, he suggests that archives are defined by a struggle over what they preserve or save and what they forget or destroy. This leads Derrida to define the “archivization”&nbsp;process as that which “produces as much as it records the event.”<a... Full Review
April 30, 2018
Ara H. Merjian
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 83 color ills.; 160 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300176599)
Ara Merjian’s commanding monograph, Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris, opens with a reading of Self-Portrait with Double, a picture de Chirico made in 1919, shortly before his epochal retour à l’ordre. In the painting, the artist sits beside a table in a perfunctory room, fixing the viewer with a sober, portentous stare and gesturing toward a marble slab held upright on the tabletop. True to the picture’s title, a ghostly... Full Review
April 27, 2018
Alison Cole
London: Laurence King Publishing, 2016. 256 pp.; 156 color ills. Hardcover $30.00 (9781780677408)
The art-historical literature on Italian Renaissance courts has traditionally been one of in-depth studies of individual court cities and specific artists. Alison Cole’s lucidly written book summarizes some of this literature for a general audience, focusing on the courts of Naples, Urbino, Ferrara, Mantua, and Milan during the fifteenth century. The work is a revised edition of the author’s 1995 book Virtue and Magnificence: Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts, expanded to... Full Review
April 26, 2018
Sophie Junge
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017. 352 pp.; 28 color ills.; 40 b/w ills. Hardcover $126.00 (9783110453072)
Eight years after the first cases of AIDS came to light in the United States, and six years before combined antiretroviral therapy was introduced, the photographer Nan Goldin organized the exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing at Artists Space, New York. This event, an outcry from an East Village community besieged by the <span... Full Review
April 25, 2018
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&nbsp;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