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

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Ann Reynolds
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003. 386 pp.; 10 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0262182270)
Robert Smithson can be a trap for the critic. So much of what is interesting in his work can only be accessed through his writing, and his ideas are so captivatingly threaded through both that quotation often stands in for interpretation. Most studies of Smithson are just extended glosses and therefore do not tell us anything that we could not find out ourselves by going to the same source. Art history offers two correctives to this state of affairs: close study of the works themselves, and... Full Review
September 2, 2003
Christopher S. Wood, ed.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Zone Books, 2000. 472 pp.; 39 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (1890951145)
See Margaret Olin’s review of this book. The Anglophone public owes a great debt to Christopher Wood and his colleagues for their various translations of classic German art-historical texts. This latest volume is centered on the work of the so-called Second School of Vienna Art Historians, active in the 1920s and 1930s. Writings by its key members, Hans Sedlmayr and Otto Pächt, are prefaced by two pieces from Alois Riegl,... Full Review
August 29, 2003
Janice Leoshko
Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003. 184 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $44.95 (0754601382)
Sacred Traces: British Explorations of Buddhism in South Asia examines steps in the process by which our understanding of Buddhist sculpture—particularly those from eastern India, the region where Buddhism originated—has been shaped by British colonial interest in the region. In addressing this issue, Janice Leoshko draws upon images as diverse as the Bharhut rail pillars from the first century B.C.E., medieval clay votives and models of the Bodh Gaya temple,... Full Review
August 29, 2003
Madeline H. Caviness
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. 208 pp.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0812235991)
Why have psychoanalytic approaches to interpreting medieval art long been resisted? For decades many art historians have explored how Sigmund Freud’s ideas can enhance the readings of objects, yet medievalists have considered psychoanalytic theories too remote in time and philosophy from their subject. Psychoanalysis seems too concerned with individual agency to be adapted for use in studying artists and patrons whose identities have largely been lost over time. Madeline H. Caviness claims to... Full Review
August 29, 2003
Rona Goffen
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. 521 pp.; 80 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0300094345)
Competition is something we are all familiar with, both inside and outside of our professions. We compete with our parents, mentors, siblings, friends, and lovers. We compete with our enemies. We compete with the living and, even, with the dead—occasionally, in order to transcend death. We need to prove our worth, both to ourselves and to the world at large, as we attempt to give meaning to our lives. Competition sustains us. It can be productive and can lead to breakthroughs (i.e.,... Full Review
August 27, 2003
Clare Pollard
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 200 pp.; 40 color ills.; 141 b/w ills. Cloth $150.00 (0199252556)
Miyagawa (or Makuzu) Kōzan (1842–1916) is enjoying a revival among collectors today—and with good reason. A remarkably prolific artist whose activities spanned the entire Meiji era (1868–1912), he produced ceramics of dazzling technical bravura, of subtle tonalities, and of painterly effects. His name is associated with wares in the Satsuma style; giant vases intricately decorated in high relief; stonewares in the manner of Ninsei and Kenzan; celadons; and, above all, with elegant porcelains... Full Review
August 27, 2003
Richard T. Neer
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 328 pp.; 101 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521791111)
No group of Athenian vase painters has received more scholarly attention than the so-called Pioneers, the early painters in the red-figure technique working from its invention ca. 530 B.C. to about 490/480 B.C., the height of the late archaic period in Greek art. Among the Pioneers the best known by far is Euphronios, one of the few ancient Greek artists to be given a solo exhibition and still the holder of the record price for a Greek vase. The Pioneers and their vases are also the... Full Review
August 22, 2003
Elizabeth A. Newsome
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 294 pp.; 165 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0292755724)
Elizabeth Newsome’s Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of “18-Rabbit-God K,” King of Copan is a monographic treatment of stela sculpture commissioned by one Classic Maya king, nicknamed “18 Rabbit,” ruler of Copan, Honduras, between A.D. 695 and 738. This fact is extremely telling about the current state of knowledge of the ancient Maya. Scholarship in this field has become so detailed that book-length biographies of individual kings,... Full Review
August 21, 2003
Felix Thürlemann
New York: Prestel, 2002. 392 pp.; 87 color ills.; 218 b/w ills. Cloth $129.00 (379132778X)
Felix Thürlemann’s monograph presents a radically new vision of the notoriously elusive, early Netherlandish painter, Robert Campin. Questions about the attribution of his works have plagued scholars from 1909, when the artist was first “discovered” and identified with the Master of Flémalle by Georges Hulin de Loo, to the present, as was particularly evident at the Campin symposium held at the National Gallery in London in 1993 (its papers were published in Susan Foister and Susie Nash,... Full Review
August 20, 2003
Jennifer Neils
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 316 pp.; 180 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0521641616)
The Parthenon frieze has stimulated more discussion and controversy than any other monument of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Resistant to verifiable interpretation, the frieze continues to generate scholarly effort and stir interest among the general populace, for not only its aesthetic appeal but also its powerful potential as a cultural and political icon. Anyone who writes about the Parthenon frieze invites criticism and controversy, so it is to Jenifer Neils’s great credit that... Full Review
August 14, 2003