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

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John Maeda
MIT Press, 1999. 250 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (0262133547)
A recent profile of Jasper Johns finds the painter amid various projects in his studio ("A Master of Silence Who Speaks in Grays," New York Times, Sept. 5, 1999, Section 2, page 29, col. 1). On the wall is a work in progress that includes a string suspended from two points along the perimeter and forming a gentle curve as it arcs across the canvas. When told by a house guest that the resultant curve not only has a name but also a precise mathematical derivation, one frequently used by... Full Review
November 3, 1999
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Ross Neher
Ed. Michael Takiff. New York: Prenom Press, 1999. 110 pp.; 3 b/w ills. Paper $15.00 (0967180805)
Ross Neher's recently published book, Blindfolding the Muse: The Plight of Painting in the Age of Conceptual Art, has all the makings of a curmudgeon's acerbic longing for the days when painting was the only game in town, before "ideas" were privileged over the visual. Not short on wit and one-liners, Neher's book envisions a solution for painting's return to the unique status it once held. But the author refrains from excessively condemning Conceptual art for bringing down painting.... Full Review
November 2, 1999
James Schmiechen and Kenneth Carls
Yale University Press, 1999. 352 pp.; 98 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300060645)
Britain's grand age of market hall construction, 1830-90, saw the transformation of traditional open-air markets into mammoth multi-storied buildings with standardized stalls and shops arranged within variations of a parallelogram. Often wrapped in a Gothic, Italianate, or eclectic shop-front façade, the market hall provided the modern townscape with a new and distinctive addition to an expanding range of civic and commercial structures, such as the town hall, courthouse, railway station,... Full Review
October 29, 1999
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David Craven
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 232 pp.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521434157)
Why "yet another study" of Abstract Expressionism? David Craven answers his own question by positing that his book discloses "new material," provides a "novel approach," and embodies "a shift in critical perspective" (p. 2) regarding the art historical analysis of what may well be American art's best known and most widely discussed style of painting. The new sources that Craven examines consist of two sets of previously unpublished materials: 200 pages of FBI files on various Abstract... Full Review
October 26, 1999
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Kerry Brown, ed.
New York and Palo Alto, Calif.: Routledge in association with Sikh Foundation, 1999. 217 pp.; 42 color ills.; 94 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (0415202892)
This long-awaited volume springs from a 1992 conference at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Sikh Art and Literature, held in conjunction with an exhibition focused on Sikh painting, Splendors of the Punjab: Art of the Sikhs. Generously illustrated with many color plates and almost one hundred pictures in black and white, the book provides a fine compilation of visual arts we may associate with Sikhism, including eighteenth- and nineteenth-century painting, architecture,... Full Review
October 22, 1999
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John O’Brian
University of Chicago Press, 1999. 297 pp.; 30 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0226616266)
John O'Brian's compact but ambitious book eludes categorization. Most obviously, it is the latest entry in the "modernism comes to America" genre. It is also a reception study more sophisticated than the usual "critical fortune" type, taking account of muted but tenacious ideologies as well as overt expressions of opinion and taste. Finally, the book positions itself within the recent trend of institutional histories in the art world, especially of museums and the trade in art. O'Brian's... Full Review
October 20, 1999
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Christopher White
Yale University Press (0300079532)
In 1969, Rembrandt's Etchings: An Illustrated Critical Catalogue by Christopher White and Karel Boon was published in an independent edition (Amsterdam: Van Gendt & Co. / London: A. Zwemmer Ltd. / New York: Abner Schram) and as part of the Hollstein series (F.W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Amsterdam 1949). More than three decades later, despite the steady stream of publications devoted to the artist's paintings and studio... Full Review
October 15, 1999
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Peter McNair, Robert Joseph, and Bruce Greenville, eds.
Seattle and Vancouver: University of Washington Press in association with Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 1998. 192 pp. Paper $30.00 (0295977094)
Natives from Puget Sound to Southeast Alaska have for centuries created remarkable and striking masks. These artworks are the subject Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast, the catalogue of an exhibition put on at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1998 and currently traveling about the United States and Canada. The two curators of the exhibit, Peter Macnair and Robert Joseph, join with Vancouver Art Gallery Senior Curator Bruce Greenville to present this lavishly... Full Review
October 13, 1999
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Mark Cheetham, Keith Moxey, and Michael Ann Holly, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 336 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Cloth (0521454905)
The editors understand this collection of essays to be concerned with "the making of art-historical meaning." They divide the volume into sections that broadly categorize the subjects which art history has addressed since its origins in the nineteenth century: "Philosophy of History and Historiography," "The Subjects and Objects of Art History," and "Places & Spaces for Visual Studies." The variety of topics and approaches found in the essays themselves, mirrors, so the compilers argue, the... Full Review
October 8, 1999
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Neil Leach
MIT Press, 1999. 101 pp.; 4 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $16.50 (0262621266)
Neil Leach's The Anaesthetics of Architecture proclaims itself a polemical work that aims to challenge the unrigorous thinking that has dominated architecture in recent years. The book stages this challenge as a critique of the image, only making explicit any association between the visual and the textual in its final pages. Leach's argument is that society has been completely aestheticized through the saturation by, and intoxication with, images, ultimately producing an anaesthetizing... Full Review
October 8, 1999
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