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

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Ernst van de Wetering
Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. 340 pp.; c. 300 color ills. Paper $49.95 (9780520290259)
It is hard to imagine that a painter as provocative and awe-inspiring as Rembrandt created his oeuvre without having a theory of art. His works are outspoken, offering robust statements (as Hubert Damisch and Mieke Bal would say) about the nature and status of pictorial representation. To have such pictorial statements further articulated and contextualized would have made a great book. However, in Rembrandt: The Painter Thinking, Ernst van de Wetering approaches with great caution... Full Review
December 11, 2017
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John B. Ravenal, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 140 pp.; 165 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9780300220063)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, November 12, 2015-February 20, 2016
The illuminating exhibition Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life recently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), explored the deep connections between what seems at first glance to be the work of two starkly different artists. Both the exhibition and meticulously researched catalogue essay examine... Full Review
December 8, 2017
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Marsha Meskimmon and Dorothy C. Rowe, eds.
Rethinking Art's Histories MUP. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Hardcover £ 65.00 (9780719088759)
Marion Arnold and Marsha Meskimmon, eds.
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016. 352 pp.; 54 color ills.; 115 b/w ills. Cloth £ 75.00 (9781781382806)
Women, Geography, Borders in the Age of (Anti)Globalization—The constituency of women is the primary subject of two books co-edited by art historian Marsha Meskimmon; and as represented in the above-listed volumes, the 2013 title was coedited with Dorothy C. Rowe while the 2016 compendium was with first editor Marion Arnold. The two collections of essays contribute to the... Full Review
December 8, 2017
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Tom Nichols
London: Laurence King, 2016. 224 pp.; 135 color ills. Cloth $35.00 (9781780678511)
In his introduction to Renaissance Art in Venice: From Tradition to Individualism, Tom Nichols takes careful aim at some overused concepts in the discussion of Venetian art, namely the characterization of it as distinguished by colore as opposed to disegno, and qualities of venezianità and mediocritas. He cautions his readers that these narratives do “little to explain the more dynamic dimensions of art and architecture in this period, and fail to account... Full Review
December 6, 2017
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Sheryl Oring, ed.
Bristol, U.K.: Intellect, 2016. 222 pp.; 170 color ills. Paperback $38.50 (9781783206711)
With breaking news coming out of the White House daily, if given the chance, what would you “wish to say” to President Trump? What might you ask him? What would be your most pressing issue to discuss? Would you be able to fit it on a postcard? Sheryl Oring has been asking the public these and related questions for over a decade in her project, “I Wish to Say.” Donning 1960s-era dress suits, she travels across the country with her portable public office, a vintage manual typewriter in tow,... Full Review
December 4, 2017
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Jenni Sorkin
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 8 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226303116)
This excellent book by the feminist scholar, critic, and curator Jenni Sorkin exemplifies the value of incorporating craft and other forms of applied art more fully into the history of the avant-garde. Sorkin reveals the important role played by women ceramic artists of the 1950s and 1960s in shaping collective and performative experiences of art. Women ceramicists built alternative communities of practitioners while exploring issues of form and process, and Sorkin argues that their work... Full Review
December 4, 2017
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Midori Yamamura
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 256 pp.; 4 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $30.95 (9780262029476)
A legendary artist with an extraordinary life story and a larger-than-life persona, Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) is a difficult subject for study, which leaves little room for diverse interpretation. Her account of mental illness and the fact that she has been living in a psychiatric hospital since the mid-1970s—upon returning to Tokyo after struggling in New York for recognition and success in the 1960s—have shaped not only public perception but also scholarly analysis of her artwork. When she... Full Review
December 1, 2017
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Rosalind P. Blakesley
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 380 pp.; 135 color ills.; 155 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300184372)
Finally there exists a comprehensive study of Russian painting before the twentieth century: Rosalind Blakesley’s gloriously illustrated, exceptionally researched history of painting from the foundation of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1757 to the death of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. This is a book we may not have even known we were waiting for, but now that it is here, it may well change the field of art history. To say that “it fills a gap in existing literature” (2) is a gross... Full Review
December 1, 2017
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Sue Ann Prince, ed.
Exh. cat. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Museum, 2013. 267 pp. Paper (9780871692672)
American Philosophical Society Museum, Philadelphia, March 25–December 31, 2011.
Of Elephants and Roses: French Natural History, 1790–1830 offers an ambitious model for fostering interdisciplinary scholarly conversations between the history of science, the history of art, and cultural and literary history. An edited collection of papers that were delivered at a symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition at the American Philosophical Society in 2011 entitled Encounters with French Natural History, 1790–1830, the lavishly illustrated volume... Full Review
December 1, 2017
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Arnold Dreyblatt and Angela Lammert, eds.
Exh. cat. Dortmund: Verlag Kettler, 2015. 312 pp.; 90 color ills.; 240 b/w ills. Cloth € 39.00 (9783862065158)
Exhibition schedule: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, November 11, 2015–January 1, 2016; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Mons, Belgium, March 11–June 12, 2016; Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany, September 11–February 2, 2016; Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland, March 3–June 2017
In their introduction to the exhibition catalogue Terry Fox: Elemental Gestures, editors Arnold Dreyblatt and Angela Lammert remark on the artist’s current position on the edge of art history. A vital force in the often overlooked San Francisco art scene of the late 1960s and 1970s, Terry Fox (1943–2008) appears to have found greater appreciation outside of the United States, particularly within mainland Europe. (It is perhaps telling that a retrospective of this scale was first... Full Review
November 30, 2017
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