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

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Timothy Hyde
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 384 pp.; 11 color ills.; 69 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9780816678112)
The political efficacy of architecture and urban planning is brought to the fore in Timothy Hyde’s cogent analysis of architecture and constitutionalism in Republican-era Cuba (1933–59). Focused primarily on Havana, Hyde brilliantly accounts for the relationship between legal discourse and architectural production. Divided into three parts, the book claims a tripartite of trajectories: the textual, the graphic, and the physical. The first part of the book explores the creation of the 1940... Full Review
September 1, 2017
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Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. 273 pp.; 332 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780292719163)
Mexican plazas are the “public living rooms” of urban centers large and small, and they have been shaped by social intercourse for over four thousand years, sometimes rhythmically and slowly, sometimes violently and suddenly. These communal spaces still resonate with Pre-Columbian symbolism, as Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead demonstrate in Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza: From Primordial Sea to Public Space. Whereas the pioneering studies of colonial Spanish... Full Review
September 1, 2017
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Holly S. Hurlburt
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 360 pp.; 34 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780300209723)
Global Renaissance studies, which include the examination of contributions by elite women to early modern European culture and considerations of courtly culture and ritual, have been some of the more productive avenues of recent research in the field. Holly S. Hurlburt’s engaging Daughter of Venice: Caterina Corner, Queen of Cyprus and Woman of the Renaissance, a biographical study of Caterina Corner (1454?–1510), the Venetian-born Queen of Cyprus, engages with these themes. Hurlburt... Full Review
August 25, 2017
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Christina Normore
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 272 pp.; 4 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226242200)
Christina Normore’s first book gracefully crosses disciplines in its examination of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century art. A Feast for the Eyes: Art, Performance, and the Late Medieval Banquet encompasses performance, so-called “decorative” arts, book illumination, painting, and literature. Normore posits the feast as a major artistic form that has much to reveal about culture. Which culture, may one ask? The attractive book title does not reflect Normore’s real focus, which is the... Full Review
August 24, 2017
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Ömür Harmanşah
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 372 pp.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $37.99 (9781107533745)
Ömür Harmanşah
New York: Routledge, 2015. 200 pp.; 68 b/w ills. Cloth $148.00 ( 9780415744881)
With the recent publication of two thoughtful and provocative monographs in rapid succession, Ömür Harmanşah has emerged as one of the ancient Near East’s most theoretically aware and intellectually ambitious scholars of art history and archaeology. Tapping into a wealth of cultural criticism and social theory concerning space and place, Harmanşah weaves this literature into case studies drawn from the second and first millennium BCE in ancient Anatolia and surrounding regions. In his first... Full Review
August 18, 2017
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Katharina Sykora
Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2015. 517 pp.; 225 color ills. Cloth £ 58.00 (9783770549160)
We should “work the ‘mirror with a memory,’” the photographer Minor White once said about photographic practice, as if the camera were “a metamorphosing machine, and the photograph as if it were a metaphor” (Minor White, “The Light Sensitive Mirage,” 1958, in Vicki Goldberg, ed., Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981, 396). In the second volume of her wide-ranging study, The Deaths of Photography, whose title echoes that of... Full Review
August 17, 2017
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Elena Shtromberg
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 238 pp.; 32 color ills.; 41 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781477308585)
Irene V. Small
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 50 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226260167)
Irene V. Small’s Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame and Elena Shtromberg’s Art Systems: Brazil and the 1970s offer complementary perspectives on the postwar Brazilian avant-garde. At first, they have much in common, with key terms such as “art as social system,” “art as language,” “art as communication,” and “art and politics.” Both also propose a new social-art history, which posits the artwork as a gateway onto knowledge. Small’s innovative monograph presents Hélio... Full Review
August 16, 2017
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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Hilton Als, Amira Gad, and Glenn Ligon
Exh. cat. London and Wien: Serpentine Galleries and Koenig Books, 2015. 136 pp. Paper £ 8.00 (9781908617286)
Exhibition schedule: Serpentine Galleries, London, July 2–September 15, 2015
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dusk was released on the occasion of the British painter’s 2015 solo exhibition at Serpentine Gallery. The compendium features Yiadom-Boakye’s stunning painterly and writerly interrogations of fictional characters and black figures in her paintings, etchings, short stories, poems, and essays, along with texts by artist Glenn Ligon, critic Hilton Als, and the exhibition’s organizer, Amira Gad. Verses After Dusk asks readers and viewers to... Full Review
August 16, 2017
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Florence, Italy
The spectacular new Opera del Duomo Museum in Florence, Italy, which opened on the fall of 2015, is in a very real sense a twenty-first-century manifestation of two closely associated late eighteenth-century European cultural and intellectual accomplishments. The remarkable invention of the public museum is deeply connected to the development of art history as an independent academic discipline. Both are manifestations of the Enlightenment belief that the appreciation of art might shape moral... Full Review
August 10, 2017
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Philip M. Peek, ed.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012. 376 pp.; 36 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (9780253223074)
Existing African arts and cultures scholarship’s disproportionate attention on how twin births constitute a problem to parents and community is challenged in Twins in African and Diaspora Cultures, as the volume takes a dialectic approach to show how twins embody ambiguity. The subtitle, “Double Trouble, Twice Blessed,” foregrounds this premise. In several African cultures, twins are viewed through the prism of complementary duality, which is fundamental to African belief systems and... Full Review
August 10, 2017
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