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

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Dawn Ades
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 1999. 196 pp.; 109 color ills.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300081774)
Now that the twentieth century is over it begins to make sense to assess modernism as a whole, and in that context artists like Salvador Dalí become unexpectedly important. For decades he has been an asked-and-answered question, largely on the lead of his expulsion from the Surrealist group in 1939 (when Breton said his work was "little more than crossword puzzles"). He did not help his case by moving so aggressively into marketing, and at the start of the twenty-first century he has the... Full Review
May 25, 2000
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Michael Shapiro and Brett Miller
Berkeley: American Association of Museums, 1999. 120 pp.; 99 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0931201632)
At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1977, valuable collections vanished suddenly and probably forever from museums all over the United States. The dollar value of the loss has never, to my knowledge, been assessed. Yet, it certainly ranked in the many millions. Surprisingly, museum officials at first took little notice of their loss. They filed no police reports, made no insurance claims. In the days and weeks that followed, there were no mass protests against the vast conspiracy,... Full Review
May 25, 2000
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Ewa Lajer-Burcharth
Yale University Press, 1999. 374 pp. Cloth (0300074212)
The Bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1989 has brought in its wake perhaps the most thoroughgoing reassessment of a major artist in recent art historiography, namely Jacques-Louis David. In that year David was the subject of what must be by the same token one of the most productive conferences ever, David Contre David. Since then a flood of articles has been supplemented by a major biography by Dorothy Johnson, Thomas Crow's Emulation, and now Ewa Lajer-Burcharth's... Full Review
May 24, 2000
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Jean-Loup Champion, ed.
Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1998. 469 pp. Cloth $720.00 (2070115119)
This survey of sculptures in French museums, well-chosen and profusely illustrated, covers the history of European sculpture. Written by an array of scholars--most of whom are curators, all recognized as preeminent in the field--the texts define the seventeen periods, from Paleolithic to contemporary sculpture, presented in this comprehensive tome. Their concise introductions are followed by a selection of photographs of works drawing upon the principal public collections of France, which, it... Full Review
May 23, 2000
Shelley Rice
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 168 pp.; 16 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0262681064)
New York University Grey Art Gallery, Nov. 16, 1999-Jan. 29, 2000; Museum of Contemporary Art/North Miami Gallery, Mar. 31-May 28, 2000.
This exhibition features the work of three women whose lives span the twentieth century: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, and Cindy Sherman. Lynn Gumpert, the cocurator of the exhibition and director of New York University's Grey Art Gallery, originally conceived of the project as a showcase for the extraordinary performance-portraiture produced between 1912 and 1954 by Cahun, a long-obscured member of Paris's surrealist milieu. While Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston included examples of Cahun's... Full Review
May 22, 2000
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Panayotis Tournikiotis
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 344 pp.; 34 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0262201178)
I must confess that I have a natural affinity toward books about history. I like the subject. I like reading about historians. I like discerning historiorgraphic assumptions and approaches toward the discipline. Thus, when an author offers a book with the promising title The Historiography of Modern Architecture I am inclined to read it and enjoy it--even if it presents only the chance to think about history. Tournikiotis's book does more, by offering various new insights. It is a... Full Review
May 19, 2000
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Leonard Barkan
Yale University Press, 2000. 512 pp.; 206 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0300076770)
Sometime in the year 1512, the remains of a fallen obelisk were discovered by a barber digging a latrine near the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. Thanks to a detailed account in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, the monument was almost immediately recognized as the obelisk raised by the Emperor Augustus as the gnomon of a gigantic sundial in the Campus Martius. The Bellunese humanist Laelius Podager confirmed the identification by reading the Augustan inscription on the... Full Review
May 18, 2000
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Robert Sobieszek
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998. 324 pp.; 184 color ills.; 116 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (0262692287)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Oct. 16, 1999-Jan.17, 2000.
In Ghost in the Shell: Photography and the Human Soul, 1850–2000, curator Robert Sobieszek has produced a highly ambitious and intelligent catalogue to accompany the eponymous exhibition he recently organized at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Considering the photographic portrait from an intriguing combination of philosophical, quasi-scientific, historical, and theoretical perspectives, Sobieszek has written a profusely illustrated and annotated work that should hold a place as... Full Review
May 16, 2000
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Thayer Tolles
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. 480 pp.; 29 color ills.; 198 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0870999141)
The last quarter of the twentieth century was a Golden Age in the study of the history of American art. Inspired by Milton Brown, John I. H. Baur, and Lloyd Goodrich, a new generation of specialists in the field--including Wayne Craven, William Gerdts, Jules Prown, Barbara Novak, and John Wilmerding--initiated a scholarly reassessment of the entire history of American art, especially the neglected nineteenth century. These scholars passed their standards and methodologies on to several... Full Review
May 15, 2000
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Michael K. Komanecky
Phoenix: Oxford University Press in association with Phoenix Art Museum, 1998. 346 pp.; 137 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0195123972)
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, Dec. 19, 1998-Feb. 28, 1999.
Paintings on copper have long been valued as refined and elegant works of art. The authors of the exhibition catalogue Copper as Canvas have undertaken to evaluate the specific qualities that this material--copper panel used as a painting support--lends to a wide range of works of art. In this ambitious project they have made an important contribution, not only in the information they have gathered but in the conception of the exhibition itself. Other exhibitions have explored the... Full Review
May 10, 2000