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

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Niko Vicario
Studies on Latin American Art. Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 312 pp.; 40 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780520310025)
In his important new book, Niko Vicario reconfigures how we understand Latin American art by mapping a set of relations among key protagonists from Mexico, Uruguay, Cuba, and the United States between 1933 and 1945. All prominent artists, curators, and cultural influencers, they participated in a vigorous conversation centered on economic policy, industry, and art. Vicario chronicles their interactions and the objects they produced in a narrative that revolves around David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres-García, and Mario Carreño. Nelson Rockefeller, as the patron responsible for the acquisition of a collection of Latin American art by the Museum of Modern Art… Full Review
December 3, 2020
Genevieve Hyacinthe
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019. 352 pp.; 78 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780262042703)
Genevieve Hyacinthe’s Radical Virtuosity: Ana Mendieta and the Black Atlantic bridges a gap in scholarship on Ana Mendieta (1948–1985), exploring the role of Afro-Caribbean syncretism in the Cuban artist’s work. Although the titles of her Earthworks, performances, photographs, and moving-image works directly reference non-Western deities, and while several scholars note the importance of spirituality for Mendieta, no publication until now has extensively contextualized her work in Black Atlantic cultures. Hyacinthe convincingly argues that a Black Atlantic lens sharpens our interpretation of the sculptor’s practice. At its most successful, Radical Virtuosity revitalizes readings of Mendieta’s artworks by theorizing Black Atlantic rituals… Full Review
November 24, 2020
Amelia Rauser
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020. 216 pp.; 180 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300241204)
Amelia Rauser’s book The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s traces the transformation of the iconic robe à la grecque (or Empire line dress) from a fanciful, archaeologically inspired costume to an international, semantically fraught fashion trend in the last turbulent decade of the eighteenth century. Her erudite, engaging new study presents the reader with an impressively interdisciplinary analysis of this cultural phenomenon, which she sees as closely interwoven with contemporary debates on sensory perception, the emotions, race, and the role of women in modern society. Her approach, combining an intellectual history of the… Full Review
November 19, 2020
Babette Bohn and Raffaella Morselli, eds.
Visual and Material Culture, 1300–1700. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019. 192 pp.; 9 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Cloth €89.00 (9789462986336)
For centuries, Bologna’s determinedly local self-consciousness of its art and architecture has been inscribed in the archival and published record. This mentality becomes methodology in the writings of Carlo Cesare Malvasia, who relied on documents for his Felsina pittrice, or Lives of the Bolognese Painters, published in 1678. An efficient tour of the Bolognese archival record and such attendant publications introduces this slim volume of six essays based on presentations at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in 2016. Today, scholars of Emilian art refer often to the writings of Antonio di Paolo Masini, Giovanni… Full Review
November 17, 2020
Christopher S. Wood
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 472 pp.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780691156521)
An accessible and timely book on art history’s history is a gap that needed to be filled, but the title of this book by Christopher S. Wood, a professor in the German department at New York University, is somewhat misleading. This book goes well beyond a history of art history, or even a historiography of the field, as several reviewers have noted. Andrei Pop, for example, calls it “more than a textbook” and rather a “polemic” with art history; Cindy Helms argues that it is “a heavy duty assessment of what the discipline of Art History has thought about itself… Full Review
November 12, 2020
Mark Crinson and Richard J. Williams
London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 184 pp.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781350020917)
Few academic disciplines are as variously housed in institutions of higher learning as architectural history—sometimes in university departments of history or art history, sometimes in schools of architecture or degree programs in historic preservation or heritage conservation, and sometimes in several different places within the same institution. Should the discipline be devoted to the training of architects or to fostering a new generation of architectural historians based in methods of nontextual analysis? Since the early nineteenth century, the history of architecture has been taught to future architects—the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, had a professor of architectural history—and by the end… Full Review
November 6, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. If you had the chance to write to President Donald Trump, what would you say? Across three presidencies, Sheryl Oring has been typing postcards from citizens on a vintage typewriter, expressing the people’s thoughts about those in power. Read more in Christianna Fail’s review of Activating Democracy: The “I Wish to Say” Project. Full Review
November 3, 2020
FROM THE ARCHIVE: This autumn, is revisiting reviews that relate to the social issues of the present, at a time when the field is taking them up in renewed ways. In a review befitting the eve of the 2020 US presidential election, Ariel Evans discusses the eerily prescient book and exhibition Kathryn Andrews: Run for President, exploring presidential publicity and the roots of Trumpism. Full Review
November 2, 2020
Meha Priyadarshini
Palgrave Studies in Pacific History. Philadelphia: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 198 pp.; 25 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9783319665467)
Meha Priyadarshini’s Chinese Porcelain in Colonial Mexico is structured as a spatial-commercial journey, presenting a “typical biography” (sensu Igor Kopytoff in his classic 1986 essay from Cambridge University Press’s The Social Life of Things) of the world’s first “global brand” (to use Craig Clunas’s oft-cited phrase). The book follows Chinese porcelain from production in Jingdezhen, to transpacific shipping from Manila, to consumption in Acapulco and Mexico City, and finally to reproduction in Puebla (one valley east of the viceregal capital), where Chinese porcelain inspired a local off-brand (talavera poblana) that was valued on its own terms by… Full Review
October 28, 2020
Jennifer Bajorek
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 352 pp.; 30 color ills.; 102 b/w ills. Paper $28.95 (9781478003663)
Over the past three decades, scholarship on the history of photography in Africa has done much to overturn monolithic accounts of modernity in the discipline of art history. Today African photography is a common topic of art history PhD dissertations and the regular focus of major books and exhibitions. The significance of this development cannot be overstated. Unfixed: Photography and Decolonial Imagination in West Africa by Jennifer Bajorek can be understood as an important turning point in these developments because it moves beyond topics that are by now familiar, even canonical. Grounded in rigorous theoretical inquiry and years of in-depth… Full Review
October 21, 2020