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

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Keller Easterling
New York: Verso Books, 2014. 252 pp. Paperback $13.96 (9781784783648)
Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space is a palimpsest of a book. It is rich with stories of intricate entanglements among capital, space, and politics; it provides a probing analysis focused on how this evidence allows for a new understanding of how the world operates. And it claims a role, albeit somewhat vaguely, for the agency of designers and others in crafting counter-narratives and insurgent practices.Easterling’s strength is in her... Full Review
January 29, 2018
Éric Alliez
Trans. Robin Mackay. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2015. 472 pp. Paperback $49.00 (9781783480685)
Philosophically inflected histories of modern painting take many forms. French phenomenology shapes one of the richest and most deeply ingrained of these. Éric Alliez’s The Brain-Eye offers an alternative to this standard way of charting European painting from roughly 1825 to 1900. His account is alternative in that it shifts emphasis decidedly away from what has become comme il faut in such philosophical studies, i.e., approaches that give pride of place to “impressionism”... Full Review
January 26, 2018
Joseph Conrad and Fiona Banner
Four Corners Familiars. London: Four Corners Books, 2016. 312 pp.; 22 color ills.; 134 b/w ills. Paperback $35.00 (9781909829053)
On Fiona Banner’s website, her publication Heart of Darkness is referred to as a magazine. On the publisher’s website it is referred to as a book in magazine format. Straddling these two categories, Heart of Darkness embodies multiple dualities and contrasting conditions, in line with the body of work Banner has been developing over the past two decades. The publication is part of Four Corners Books’ series Familiars, which pairs a classic novel with a contemporary... Full Review
January 25, 2018
Hubert Damisch
Ed. Anthony Vidler. Writing Architecture. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2016. 392 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Paperback $30.95 (9780262528580)
Noting the manner in which Leon Battista Alberti treated the column in his architecture, French philosopher Hubert Damisch commented on its ambiguity: at times structural element, at times a nonstructural, expressive point of punctuation. If there is one motif recurrently embedded in Damisch’s writings on architecture, it is the column and its potent identity as a fixture of ambiguity and multiple meanings. The column is rendered structurally elemental, as it is conceptually, and presents... Full Review
January 24, 2018
Richard Gasperi
Exh. cat. New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press and Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 2015. 64 pp.; 50 color ills. Cloth $25.00 (9781608010363)
Exhibition schedule: Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, October 4, 2014–February 22, 2015
Clementine Hunter: A Sketchbook, showcases twenty-six previously unseen paintings by renowned Louisiana artist, Clementine Hunter. The oil-on-paper sketches were completed in 1945, shortly after Hunter first began painting. She spent most of her adult life as a domestic and picking cotton on Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches Parish. Collector Richard Gasperi purchased the sketches from the Henry family during the 1970s. They were displayed for the first time in 2014 as part of the... Full Review
January 22, 2018
Clémentine Deliss and Yvette Mutumba, eds.
Exh. cat. Zurich: Diaphanes, 2015. 408 pp.; 300 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9783037348413)
Exhibition schedule: Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, March 5–October 10, 2015
El Hadji Sy: Painting, Performance, Politics was published to accompany an exhibition of works by Senegalese painter, curator, and cultural activist El Hadji Moussa Babacar Sy, generally known as El Hadji Sy or El Sy (born Dakar, Senegal, 1954). El Hadji Sy has been a key player in the complex contemporary construction of African artistic thinking and practice ever since the Senegalese government under Léopold Sédar Senghor (President of the Republic of Senegal, 1960–80) became... Full Review
January 19, 2018
Eberhard Fischer and Lorenz Homberger, eds.
Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Reitberg in association with Scheidegger and Spiess, 2014. 240 pp.; 262 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $39.00 (9783858817617)
Exhibition schedule: Museum Rietberg, Zurich, February 14–June 1, 2014; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, June 27–October 5, 2014; De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, October 25, 2014–February 15, 2015; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, April 7–July 26, 2015
How does a history of art in Africa get written? This writing has to negotiate the shoals and reefs of both its own history of writing but also and perhaps more importantly the framing of its subject matter by another history of art—that of European modernism. The shoals are well known. They come in the form of prescriptions (to students): Do not use the word tribe—it belongs to a colonial era of framing people through their language and material culture that bears little relation... Full Review
January 18, 2018
Catherine Roach
Studies in Art Historiography. New York: Routledge, 2016. 218 pp.; 40 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Cloth $145.45 (9781472454690)
Catherine Roach’s Pictures-within-Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Britain announces its quirky theme in its title: paintings that appear within paintings. Such pictures provide a guilty pleasure for the art historian, providing—in Roach’s words—“the delighted surprise that comes from identifying an image from memory and seeing it made strange” (19). Yet Roach’s book demonstrates that this is not just an art-historical gimmick or a simple riddle. Rather, through such pictures, artists... Full Review
January 17, 2018
Julian Brooks
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015. 264 pp.; 123 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Hardcover $59.00 (9781606064382)
J. Paul Getty Museum, June 23–September 13, 2015; Frick Collection in New York, October 6, 2015–January 10, 2016.
Andrea del Sarto manages to be both the painter’s painter and the draughtsman’s draughtsman. Best known for paintings, such as the so-called Madonna of the Harpies, that combine Leonardo da Vinci’s sense of the expressive possibilities of chiaroscuro with a strong feeling for the innate beauty of resonant chromatic harmony—a painterly achievement of extraordinary intuitive brilliance—he is also one of the greatest draughtsmen who ever lived. Francesco Bocchi, an underrated writer on... Full Review
January 16, 2018
Elizabeth Kindall
Harvard East Asian Monographs (Book 389). Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016. 504 pp.; 130 color ills. Hardcover $89.95 (9780674088436)
This generously illustrated volume is a welcome contribution to scholarship on seventeenth-century Chinese landscape painting and artistic expressions of loyalism to the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644) after the rise of the Manchu Qing (1644–1911). In highlighting geo-narrative, a previously unrecognized category of site-specific painting, Kindall has richly contextualized the distinctive works of Huang Xiangjian, a Suzhou artist who gained fame for his extraordinary filial... Full Review
January 10, 2018