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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Nancy Patterson Sevcenko and Christopher Moss, eds.
Princeton University Press (0691007357)
Arguably, the "Sweet Land of Cyprus," to use the words of the early fifteenth-century chronicler Leontios Machairas, is culturally and visually one of the most complex parts of the medieval Mediterranean. The arts of medieval Cyprus, especially the thirteenth-century icon and monumental painting, formed a central part in the scholarship of the late Doula Mouriki. Medieval Cyprus contains fourteen lavishly illustrated articles encompassing visual material from Early Christian to the... Full Review
March 22, 2000
Thumbnail
Noel Carroll
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 440 pp. $18.95 (0198742371)
Here in San Francisco, every now and then a splendid mansion cracks in half, and beneath it appears an unexpected fault line. The mansion's architects call in the geologists, get down in the basement with flashlights, and try to remember enough of their old geology courses to understand whether or not the whole building has to come down. The architects are forced to start talking geology, wishing all the while they were back up in the light, doing what they trained to do. Noël Carroll's... Full Review
March 9, 2000
Thumbnail
George Henderson
Cambridge University Press, 1999. $90.00 (0521551307)
Readers familiar with George Henderson's work on Gospel Books, the color purple, or the importance of opus sectile as a source for art in other media will find all three themes woven through the various topics covered in his new volume. This is an extraordinarily rich book that attempts to set the art of early Anglo-Saxon England within its broader religious and cultural context, both within the Insular world and in relation to late antiquity and the Early Christian church. The chapter... Full Review
March 7, 2000
Esther Pasztory
Cambridge University Press, 1997. 176 pp.; 121 color ills. Paper $18.95 (0521645514)
On the cover of Esther Pasztory's 1998 book we witness today's most celebrated pre-conquest Maya sacrificer, Lady Xoc, performing the act for which she is most notable: the Maya noblewoman lets blood by threading a thorn-studded rope through her tongue. Shield Jaguar, her male consort and eighth-century lord of Yaxchilan, stands close by brandishing a torch that illuminates the sacrificial scene. In recent years the sculpted lintel with Lady Xoc and Shield Jaguar, Yaxchilan Lintel 24 has... Full Review
March 1, 2000
Thumbnail
Robert Hillenbrand
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 288 pp.; 80 color ills.; 190 b/w ills. Paper $16.95 (0500203059)
The old Praeger World of Art series attempted to cover the history of world art with a large number of affordable paperbacks with color illustrations. David Talbot Rice's Islamic Art was a pioneering book in the series; published in 1965, it was revised in 1975. Never a particularly noteworthy introduction to the field, it did at least possess the virtues of being in print, affordable, and the only book of its kind. With the appearance of the two Pelican History of Art... Full Review
March 1, 2000
Thumbnail
Yve-Alain Bois
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 263 pp.; 185 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (1891771078)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 6-May 16, 1999; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Jun. 8-Aug. 15, 1999; Art Institute of Chicago, Sept. 11-Dec. 5, 1999
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 6-May 16, 1999; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Jun. 8-Aug. 15, 1999; Art Institute of Chicago, Sept. 11-Dec. 5, 1999
Isn't it puzzling that while people who study and write about, say, Shakespeare or Kafka call themselves literary critics, people whose work concerns Michelangelo or Matisse call themselves art historians? As someone who does call himself an art critic, and whose writing is primarily concerned with the work of artists who are or might be alive today, I find most writing--even some of the best of it--by those who call themselves art historians uncritical, precisely because it lacks the... Full Review
February 29, 2000
Thumbnail
Ken Breisch
MIT Press, 1997. 354 pp. Cloth (0262523469)
Architectural history as often serves to mythologize celebrated architects as to examine their careers critically. The nineteenth-century Boston architect H. H. Richardson is a case in point. It was less Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer's pioneer biography, Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works, published two years after Richardson's death in 1886, than Henry-Russell Hitchcock's The Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times of 1936, that is the key mythologizing text.... Full Review
February 17, 2000
Thumbnail
Ruth Philips and Christopher Steiner, eds.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 424 pp. Paper (0520207971)
Jonathan Batkin's article on the early dealers in pueblo pottery, one of the most eye-opening in this valuable volume, also has one of the best stories: in a curio store in Santa Fe in the late nineteenth century, among the pottery rain gods (shipped in barrels of 100 at $6.50 the barrel), the beadwork and tambourines, the Jicarilla Apache baskets and Navajo silver, the owner claimed to be able to show you Ben Hur's trunk and the skull of Henry Ward Beecher "as a boy." It made me laugh, and... Full Review
February 11, 2000
Thumbnail
Mark Johnstone
Newark, N.J.: G + B Arts International, 1999. 208 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. (9057033216)
Mark Johnstone's book follows in the tradition of earlier California surveys such as Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1977) and 50 West Coast Artists: A Critical Selection of Painters and Sculptors Working in California (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1981) by Henry Hopkins. Focusing on Los Angeles, Contemporary Art in Southern California includes an introduction and individual entries on forty-three... Full Review
February 9, 2000
Thumbnail
Colum Hourihane, ed.
Princeton University Press, 1999. 342 pp.; 4 color ills.; 175 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0691010021)
Most of the papers in Image and Belief were presented in 1997 at a conference entitled "Iconography at the Index," which celebrated the eightieth anniversary of the Index of Christian Art. It should be said from the outset that the theme of "image and belief" is sometimes tangential to the collected papers. This book is really about iconography, as the conference title makes plain. Part one constitutes a diverse and somewhat disparate range of case studies, while Part two attempts to... Full Review
February 8, 2000
Thumbnail