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

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Emily Byrne Curtis
Routledge Research in Art History. New York: Routledge, 2020. 142 pp.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $160.00 (9781472427106)
In Chinese-Islamic Works of Art, Emily Byrne Curtis takes us on a journey through China’s history, its relationship with the Islamic world, and its rich artistic heritage. The author not only describes artifacts showing connections to the Islamic world during the Qing period but also provides a detailed discussion of the historical and social context that produced such amazing works of art. Examining different materials—from glassware to porcelain, from cloisonné enamelware to snuff bottles—Curtis reconstructs a detailed history of technological developments in the imperial Chinese industry. By using works of art from international collections and archival sources (from European… Full Review
December 10, 2020
Karen Benezra
Studies on Latin American Art. Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 256 pp.; 14 color ills.; 8 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780520307063)
In Dematerialization: Art and Design in Latin America, Karen Benezra offers, with impressive theoretical sophistication, new grounds for understanding the criticism, experimental art, and design practices in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile in the 1960s and 1970s. Focusing mainly on the work of Oscar Masotta (Argentina, 1930–1979), Octavio Paz (Mexico, 1914–1998), Felipe Ehrenberg (Mexico, 1943–2017), Tomás Maldonado (Argentina, 1922–2018), and Gui Bonsiepe (Germany, b. 1943), Benezra employs “dematerialization” to frame how debates over materiality were concerned with the capacity of art and design to generate social transformation; her approach stands in contrast to the more familiar use of the term… Full Review
December 8, 2020
Niko Vicario
Studies on Latin American Art. Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 312 pp.; 40 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780520310025)
In his important new book, Niko Vicario reconfigures how we understand Latin American art by mapping a set of relations among key protagonists from Mexico, Uruguay, Cuba, and the United States between 1933 and 1945. All prominent artists, curators, and cultural influencers, they participated in a vigorous conversation centered on economic policy, industry, and art. Vicario chronicles their interactions and the objects they produced in a narrative that revolves around David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres-García, and Mario Carreño. Nelson Rockefeller, as the patron responsible for the acquisition of a collection of Latin American art by the Museum of Modern Art… Full Review
December 3, 2020
Genevieve Hyacinthe
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019. 352 pp.; 78 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780262042703)
Genevieve Hyacinthe’s Radical Virtuosity: Ana Mendieta and the Black Atlantic bridges a gap in scholarship on Ana Mendieta (1948–1985), exploring the role of Afro-Caribbean syncretism in the Cuban artist’s work. Although the titles of her Earthworks, performances, photographs, and moving-image works directly reference non-Western deities, and while several scholars note the importance of spirituality for Mendieta, no publication until now has extensively contextualized her work in Black Atlantic cultures. Hyacinthe convincingly argues that a Black Atlantic lens sharpens our interpretation of the sculptor’s practice. At its most successful, Radical Virtuosity revitalizes readings of Mendieta’s artworks by theorizing Black Atlantic rituals… Full Review
November 24, 2020
Amelia Rauser
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 216 pp.; 180 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300241204)
Amelia Rauser’s book The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s traces the transformation of the iconic robe à la grecque (or Empire line dress) from a fanciful, archaeologically inspired costume to an international, semantically fraught fashion trend in the last turbulent decade of the eighteenth century. Her erudite, engaging new study presents the reader with an impressively interdisciplinary analysis of this cultural phenomenon, which she sees as closely interwoven with contemporary debates on sensory perception, the emotions, race, and the role of women in modern society. Her approach, combining an intellectual history of the… Full Review
November 19, 2020
Babette Bohn and Raffaella Morselli, eds.
Visual and Material Culture, 1300–1700. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019. 192 pp.; 9 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Cloth €89.00 (9789462986336)
For centuries, Bologna’s determinedly local self-consciousness of its art and architecture has been inscribed in the archival and published record. This mentality becomes methodology in the writings of Carlo Cesare Malvasia, who relied on documents for his Felsina pittrice, or Lives of the Bolognese Painters, published in 1678. An efficient tour of the Bolognese archival record and such attendant publications introduces this slim volume of six essays based on presentations at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in 2016. Today, scholars of Emilian art refer often to the writings of Antonio di Paolo Masini, Giovanni… Full Review
November 17, 2020
Christopher S. Wood
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 472 pp.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780691156521)
An accessible and timely book on art history’s history is a gap that needed to be filled, but the title of this book by Christopher S. Wood, a professor in the German department at New York University, is somewhat misleading. This book goes well beyond a history of art history, or even a historiography of the field, as several reviewers have noted. Andrei Pop, for example, calls it “more than a textbook” and rather a “polemic” with art history; Cindy Helms argues that it is “a heavy duty assessment of what the discipline of Art History has thought about itself… Full Review
November 12, 2020
Mark Crinson and Richard J. Williams
London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 184 pp.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781350020917)
Few academic disciplines are as variously housed in institutions of higher learning as architectural history—sometimes in university departments of history or art history, sometimes in schools of architecture or degree programs in historic preservation or heritage conservation, and sometimes in several different places within the same institution. Should the discipline be devoted to the training of architects or to fostering a new generation of architectural historians based in methods of nontextual analysis? Since the early nineteenth century, the history of architecture has been taught to future architects—the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, had a professor of architectural history—and by the end… Full Review
November 6, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. If you had the chance to write to President Donald Trump, what would you say? Across three presidencies, Sheryl Oring has been typing postcards from citizens on a vintage typewriter, expressing the people’s thoughts about those in power. Read more in Christianna Fail’s review of Activating Democracy: The “I Wish to Say” Project. Full Review
November 3, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. In a review befitting the eve of the 2020 US presidential election, Ariel Evans discusses the eerily prescient book and exhibition Kathryn Andrews: Run for President, exploring presidential publicity and the roots of Trumpism. Full Review
November 2, 2020