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

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Robert S. Nelson
Cambridge University Press, 2000. (0521652227)
"Visuality" is to vision as sexuality is to sex; that is, visuality presents the discourse and particularized cultural habits of viewing art, layered upon the physiology of vision itself. This is a term that has been cropping up more frequently in art historical writing lately, e.g. Craig Clunas, Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (Princeton, 1998), but it has received little theorizing or application in multiple cultures prior to this volume. Its editor, Robert Nelson, will... Full Review
August 3, 2000
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David Carrier
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. 140 pp.; many b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (027101962X)
This book is a free-flowing philosophical rumination about an art-form to which the author has been addicted since a child (as such he appears on the dust-jacket), and which he rightly considers to have been unfairly marginalized by art and cultural history (ignored for instance by CAA publications)--not to speak of philosophy and aesthetics. The book breathes a relaxed air, despite its rather daunting frame of scholarly reference, mitigated by a cozy reflex to begin each chapter with an... Full Review
July 27, 2000
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William Vaughan and Helen Weston
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 192 pp.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0521563372)
William Vaughan and Helen Weston are contributing editors to this volume in a recently launched series by Cambridge University Press, Masterpieces of Western Painting. Each volume in the series offers a group of essays on a single painting by specialists in the field representing different methodological perspectives. The objective is to provide a concise history and reassessment of paintings that belong to the Western canon. A volume of this nature devoted to David's Marat is... Full Review
July 26, 2000
Peter Lunenfeld
MIT Press, 2000. 240 pp.; 41 b/w ills. $32.95 (026212226X)
Peter Lunenfeld, ed.
MIT Press, 1999. 298 pp.; 0 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Paper $17.95 (0262122138)
It is no coincidence that many of the new theorists of technology and telesis are based in California--ever on the edge of tomorrow, but also host to the primary commercial market for digital imagery: the movie industry. The hybrid members of the digerati can present different faces to the world depending on the venue: artist, theorist, computer scientist, professor, robotics engineer, program designer, or supplier. A hefty cadre of these transprofessionals work and think from the San... Full Review
July 19, 2000
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Wanda Corn
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 470 pp.; 140 color ills.; 181 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0520210492)
In a 1905 history, Samuel Isham argued that American art was "in no way native to America but is European painting imported, or rather transplanted, to America . . . . There is no local tradition or influence." (Corn, 318) Countering this Eurocentric view (one still occasionally heard among those who dismiss American art before Abstract Expressionism), is an equally persistent belief in cultural exceptionalism. From the beginnings of cultural nationalism in the early nineteenth century, many... Full Review
July 14, 2000
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Xiaoneng Yang
Yale University Press, 1999. 584 pp.; 372 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0300081324)
National Gallery of Art, September 19, 1999-January 2, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, February 13-May 7, 2000; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, June 17-September 11, 2000.
This book is the catalogue accompanying an exhibition that opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and then traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. It documents 175 objects drawn from a variety of media. The catalogue is meant to be of interest to the general public who viewed the exhibition, as well as a useful reference for students of Chinese art history, complete with Chinese character lists and an extensive bibliography.... Full Review
July 13, 2000
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James Cooper
Hudson Hills Press, 2000. 109 pp.; 56 color ills.; 2 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (1555951805)
James Cooper believes in art. In his book, which amounts to a manifesto long on assertion and short on argument (as befits manifestoes), Cooper holds up the canvases of the Hudson River School as a standard for cultural renewal. His arch-principle is that the arts carry a culture's moral, spiritual, and aesthetic values such that as the arts go, so goes the culture. This idea operates in the book as a traditional American jeremiad that both critiques modern history and heralds the opportunity... Full Review
July 11, 2000
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George Michell and Mark Zebrowski
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 298 pp.; 16 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0521563216)
This book forms part of the New Cambridge History of India's commendable effort to integrate art history into its historical concerns. It was preceded by three earlier volumes, Architecture of Mughal India (Catherine B. Asher), Mughal and Rajput Painting (Milo C. Beach), and Architecture and Art of Southern India by one of the authors of the present volume (George Michell). The volume amply fulfills the agenda of the Cambridge Histories laid down in the general... Full Review
July 11, 2000
Karen Gerhart
University Of Hawai'i Press, 1999. 208 pp. $32.95 (0824821785)
Power is a front-burner issue in the postmodernist age, and scholarship from the last two decades mirrors this preoccupation. From that standpoint this is a timely book. Karen Gerhart explains (144-145) that the first half of her title, The Eyes of Power, refers simultaneously to the act of looking at the trappings of power, the process of giving visual form to power, and the gaze of power that observes the observer--a melange of ideas perhaps inspired by Foucault's notion of... Full Review
July 7, 2000
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Mary Ellen Miller
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 240 pp.; 57 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Paper $14.95 (050020327X)
Mary Ellen Miller's Maya Art and Architecture is the first textbook in English on Maya art written by a major scholar of the Maya. It is, therefore, a milestone in the dissemination of knowledge about Maya art, particularly in a classroom setting, where this book will be most useful. That a book published in 1999 deserves this honor may come as a surprise since the study of Maya art is one of the more established in ancient New World art history. As Miller points out in her... Full Review
June 23, 2000
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