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

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Hollis Clayson
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019. 320 pp.; 75 color ills.; 32 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226593869)
In 1893 Jules Luquiens (somewhat prematurely) lamented the failure of electric light. “It dazzles,” he wrote, “but does not clarify” (9). It is to this poetics of light that at once illuminates and blinds that Hollis Clayson’s Illuminated Paris attends, though fortunately, it does not suffer the same malady. Surveying artistic responses to the proliferation of lighting technologies in public spaces throughout Paris in the late nineteenth century, Clayson triangulates material and urban history with rigorous close looking. Rather than fixating on particular light sources and their corresponding technologies, she focuses instead on the phenomenological effects of nocturnal illumination and… Full Review
July 8, 2021
Lisa Tickner
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 416 pp.; 80 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781913107109)
Lisa Tickner was eighteen years old when Ken Russell’s TV documentary Pop Goes the Easel was first aired on the BBC in 1962. This media exploration of British Pop art marks the beginning of the episodic narrative of London’s New Scene, with chapters structured by year (1962–69) and each focused on a particular cultural event. From Russell’s experimental TV staging of four Pop artists, subsequent chapters cover the commercial Kasmin Gallery, a major survey exhibition at the Tate, the photobook Private View, Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up (1966), the commercial export of “swinging London,” May 1968 at Hornsey College… Full Review
July 7, 2021
Carolina Mangone
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 288 pp.; 143 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300247732)
By the time Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) had reached his early thirties, he was already being hailed the “Michelangelo of his age.” The epithet was direct acknowledgment that no living artist was as successful as Bernini at imitating Michelangelo’s style and also at matching his grandiose ambitions as a sculptor and an architect. Bernini’s earliest biographers, including his son, Domenico, were quick to latch on to the conceit, constructing narratives that pushed the theme of Bernini’s imitatio Buonarroti (in imitation of Buonarroti)—that the path Bernini chose to pursue with his art was a path that deliberately followed Michelangelo’s. But did… Full Review
July 1, 2021
Gwyneth Shanks and Allie Tepper, eds.
Living Collections Catalogue, vol. 3. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2020. Online (9781935963219)
(Click here to view the online multimedia publication.) “What if museums narrated their history, our histories, not as a chronology of single artists or ‘masterpieces,’ but rather as a story of group work?” Thomas Lax, curator of media and performance at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), asks this question in his preface to the third volume of the Walker Art Center’s Living Collections Catalogue. Side by Side: Collaborative Artistic Practices in the United States, 1960s–1980s, coedited by scholar Gwyneth Shanks and curator Allie Tepper, is a dynamic investigation of how artists have negotiated the politics… Full Review
June 30, 2021
Julius von Schlosser
Ed. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann; trans. Jonathan Blower. Texts & Documents. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2021. 232 pp.; 7 color ills.; 103 b/w ills. Paper $65.00 (9781606066652)
Although the German phrase Kunst- und Wunderkammer has become a standard expression in anglophone scholarship on early modern collecting, it has taken more than a hundred years for a full English translation of the pioneering Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance by Julius von Schlosser to appear. First published in German in 1908 and republished in a modified version in 1978, von Schlosser’s book was translated into French, Italian, and Spanish before its English edition finally appeared in the Getty Research Institute’s series Texts & Documents in 2021. It was due to this book that the term Kunst- und Wunderkammer… Full Review
June 25, 2021
Marko Ilić
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 384 pp.; 55 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780262044844)
“New Art Practice” is a name that draws together a group of artists, collectives, exhibitions, publications, and public and private projects appearing from the 1960s through the 1980s in cities across Yugoslavia. More a localized genre category (with a somewhat generic title) than a movement per se, the New Art Practice included artists who engaged random passersby as art, wrote short texts and slogans as art, and produced body art, video art, posters, installations, and manifestations. They forged a complicated relationship with the state-funded art world and socialist system of their country: critiquing, mocking, and appropriating as well as respecting… Full Review
June 23, 2021
Rebecca VanDiver
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020. 256 pp.; 51 color ills.; 37 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (9780271086040)
Rebecca VanDiver’s intersectional monograph on the iconic artist Loïs Mailou Jones (1905–1998) is a remarkable step forward in the expanding art historical canon. She situates Jones’s stylistically eclectic work (impressionistic landscapes, realistic portraits, cubistic still lifes, and political allegories) in the aesthetic and cultural concerns of the Harlem Renaissance, modernism, Négritude, abstraction, feminism, and Pan-Africanism. Her central thesis is that Jones, by producing innovative African and Afrodiasporic-themed paintings, collages, and illustrations throughout her career, designed a new composite tradition that both reflects her medial position in multiple worlds and expresses the “increasingly fragmented nature of black identity and diasporic experiences”… Full Review
June 22, 2021
Steven J. Cody
Brill's Studies in Intellectual History 314/47. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2020. 312 pp.; 74 color ills. Cloth $155.00 (9789004430150)
The luminous color, palpable atmosphere, and graceful Madonnas of Andrea del Sarto’s paintings have entranced viewers for centuries. In Steven J. Cody’s aptly titled Andrea del Sarto: Splendor and Renewal in the Renaissance Altarpiece, a series of case studies offers an explanation for this aesthetic attraction and the deep spirituality of the artist’s paintings. Six chapters, each devoted to a single altarpiece, analyze Andrea’s pictures from various angles: the commissioning of the projects; the impact of religious doctrine on the iconography and style of the altarpieces; and the art theory underpinning his practice. A comprehensive introduction sets forth the… Full Review
June 18, 2021
K. L. H. Wells
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019. 280 pp.; 59 color ills.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth $59.00 (9780300232592)
With Weaving Modernism: Postwar Tapestry between Paris and New York, author K. L. H. Wells, associate professor of American art and architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, proposes a reassessment of modernism’s relationship to decoration through an examination of modernist tapestries produced after World War II. Wells asserts that the indeterminate positioning of tapestry as a French luxury craft with “masculine prestige” gave it a “privileged position within postwar modernism,” a position attributable to its being “both elite and marginal” (6–7). Over four chapters, Wells considers the prevalence of postwar tapestries and the way in which tapestry expanded the… Full Review
June 16, 2021
Janis A. Tomlinson
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020. 448 pp.; 35 color ills.; 46 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780691192048)
Retratos, or portraits, come in different varieties in Spanish culture. There are, of course, portraits and self-portraits like the ones Francisco de Goya y Lucientes produced in abundance: visual representations of the subject—usually though not always human—created to commemorate individuals, to preserve likenesses for posterity, and to serve as models for emulation. These might be meticulous renderings of physical features and dress, idealized portrayals that flattered their subject, or perceptive reflections of the sitter’s mind and heart through a steely gaze, a furrowed brow, or an impish grin. Early modern portraits identified as verdaderos retratos, or true portraits… Full Review
June 9, 2021