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

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Shira Brisman
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 320 pp.; 49 color ills.; 86 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9780226354750)
Albrecht Dürer’s importance rests on many factors besides artistry. His capabilities as draftsman and storyteller, his gift for absorbing foreign artistic styles, and all the ineffables he termed ingenium: these would have been capabilities appreciated only in Nuremberg and the vicinity had there not been a new technology for broadcasting talent. It was perhaps market saturation that led Dürer to printing. Nuremberg had enough painters to meet its needs. But already in Michael... Full Review
March 7, 2018
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Michelle Apotsos
New York: Routledge, 2016. 216 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Hardcover $144.00 (9781138192454)
A book-length scholarly work on architecture on the African continent is so rare that a new publication is cause for celebration in the small community of scholars who study this topic. Michelle Apotsos’s in-depth, diachronic study of architecture in the Islamic community of Larabanga in northern Ghana fits the bill. The book accomplishes multiple tasks. It reconstructs the history of Larabanga as a seat of Islam in the West African savanna—including the history of its dominant ethnic... Full Review
March 5, 2018
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Robert Mills
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 398 pp.; 8 color ills.; 78 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226169125)
Robert Mills’s Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages is a brave and important book that future studies of sexuality and gender will need to contend with. Through attentive analyses of diverse texts and images, Mills destabilizes a variety of givens and orthodoxies, both medieval and modern. Seeing Sodomy enters the politically charged debates swirling around issues of social constructionism and essentialism—especially as linked to Michel Foucault’s conclusion in his influential... Full Review
February 22, 2018
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Marc Michael Epstein, ed.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 288 pp.; 278 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780691165240)
The making of this book extended over twenty years. The full story of the precious works of art it explores will perhaps be told one day. What we gather from the foreword by the editor (who also wrote most of the text) is that from the beginning the book was intended to reach the uninitiated public and not aimed at a restricted club of specialists. The result, now on our tables, is spectacular. Princeton University Press, under the directorship of Dr. Brigitta van Rheinberg, permitted the... Full Review
February 21, 2018
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Glenn Parsons
Malden, MA: Polity, 2015. 176 pp. Paperback $22.95 (9780745663890)
Glenn Parsons, an associate professor of philosophy at Ryerson University in Toronto, has managed a very difficult task: he has written a solid philosophy book about design that is firmly grounded in design and the problems of designers. Parsons’s introduction stakes out his goal—“showing that design is a realm worthy of philosophical exploration in its own right” (3)—but his book, in contrast to much of what is labeled “design philosophy,” is about design as analyzed by a philosopher... Full Review
February 15, 2018
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Kenneth A. Breisch
Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2016. 220 pp.; 21 color ills.; 140 b/w ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9781606064900)
The Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library building (1924–33) in the city’s downtown has long been hemmed in by high-rise buildings. Their bland commercial anonymity makes it hard not to regard the library as the beloved elderly neighborhood dandy—one you feel sure could tell you some terrific stories about the old days. Kenneth A. Breisch’s beautiful new monograph aims to let the building do just that. It leads us first through the twists and turns that preceded the building’s... Full Review
February 15, 2018
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Kymberly N. Pinder
Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2016. 224 pp.; 60 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780252081439)
In her book Painting the Gospel: Black Public Art and Religion in Chicago, Kymberly N. Pinder uses religious imagery affiliated with black churches in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side as a case study to explore the ways that African American artists and pastors have collaborated to insist upon self-representation of and for their congregations. This short book manages to be very narrow and specific in its discussion of a handful of churches in one of Chicago’s... Full Review
February 15, 2018
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Stefanie Seeberg
Berlin: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2015. 336 pp.; 123 color ills.; 141 b/w ills. Hardcover € 69.00 (9783731900382)
Recently, I chaperoned some undergraduates visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art. As I was admiring the Jonah Marbles, a student rushed up in excitement, eager to tell me about an extraordinary work of embroidery. I followed her and immediately recognized it as a piece of white work from Altenberg an der Lahn. Thanks to Stefanie Seeberg’s excellent discussion of this and similar works in her Textile Bildwerke im Kirchenraum: Leinenstickereien im Kontext mittelalterlicher... Full Review
February 14, 2018
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Susan Boynton and Diane J. Reilly, eds.
Turnhout: Brepols, 2015. 451 pp.; 54 color ills.; 201 b/w ills. Hardcover $130.00 (9782503554372)
The editors of Resounding Images: Medieval Intersections of Art, Music, and Sound begin the volume with a brief review of some of the recent literature addressing medieval conjunctions of sound and image. The anthology that follows comprises sixteen case studies, each exploring specific intersections of the acoustic with the visual and the spatial.Several themes run through these essays. Many of the authors consider architecture in relation to the production and reception of... Full Review
February 14, 2018
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Amy Brandt, ed.
Exh. cat. Norfolk, VA and New York: Chrysler Museum of Art, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and Lyon Artbooks, 2015. 176 pp.; 35 color ills.; 98 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9780692338674)
Grey Art Gallery, NYU, April 21–July 11, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, August 18–December 13, 2015; Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, MA, January 21–May 22, 2016; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, September 17–December 11, 2016
Party Like It’s 1989What would the late provocateur and self-proclaimed “SlutForArt” Tseng Kwong Chi have made of the annual Met Gala paparazzi fest, particularly the opening of the blockbuster 2015 exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass? The much-blogged-about fundraiser—tickets cost $30,000 each and brought in $12.5 million that year—featured a star-studded roster of global celebrities, including Rihanna, Fan Bingbing, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian West,... Full Review
February 14, 2018
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