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

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Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh, eds.
Visual and Media Histories. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015. 270 pp. Hardcover $140.00 (9781138796010)
Rebecca M. Brown
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 248 pp.; 20 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (9780295999944)

These two recent studies of museological and display histories in/of South Asia stand out in the fields of both art history and museum studies. The rather intriguing title of Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh’s edited volume, No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying, is taken from a signboard at the entrance to an Indian museum that gives the code of conduct to which visitors are expected to adhere. Assumedly, the sign is intended for “unsophisticated” viewers whose everyday worlds... Full Review

November 1, 2019
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Macarena Gómez-Barris
American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. 160 pp. Paper $18.95 (9780520296671)

In the conclusion to Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Americas, Macarena Gómez-Barris exhorts the reader to “look beyond electoral politics [of the nation-state] to strengthen already existing networks of possibility” (109). In this brief yet provocative study, she provides the reader with a model of analysis that shores up South-South linkages, privileges queer and indigenous perspectives, and denaturalizes national boundaries. Gómez-Barris champions the... Full Review

October 31, 2019
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Joanna Grabski
African Expressive Cultures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 328 pp.; 57 color ills. Paper $20.00 (9780253026057)

Art World City is a beautiful book. The photographs, most of which are by the author, are stunning, and all are in color thanks to support from the CAA Millard Meiss Publication Fund. In a book whose purpose is to situate a major international city and its artists into a complex... Full Review

October 30, 2019
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Dorothy C. Wong
Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2018. 366 pp.; 12 color ills.; 125 b/w ills. Cloth $52.00 (9789814722599)

Students of East Asian art are often told that the “Tang International Buddhist Art Style” or “International Buddhist Art Style” begins when the hips of Buddhist deities sway gracefully to one side (1). The voluptuous yet narrow-waisted bodies of bodhisattvas standing in contrapposto with an Indian flavor are seen as a hallmark of Chinese Buddhist art in the Tang dynasty (618–907). This figural type can be found across Japan and Korea by the eighth century, but what exactly is this... Full Review

October 25, 2019
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Kathleen Bickford Berzock, ed.
Exh. cat. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 312 pp.; 192 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691182681)
Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, January 26–July 21, 2019; Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, September 21, 2019–February 23, 2020; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, April 8–November 29, 2020

The project of recentering histories is at the core of both the exhibition and catalog Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa. When art historians speak of recentering, the contemporary art world, biennials, and online media spring to mind quite readily, but shifting perceptions can seem Sisyphean in earlier time periods. Bringing the discursive practice of recentering to fruition in an exhibition of the medieval world requires... Full Review

October 24, 2019
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Joshua Rivkin
Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2018. 496 pp.; 22 b/w ills. Cloth $32.00 (9781612197180)

“This, dear reader, is not a biography. This is something, I hope, stranger and more personal,” writes Joshua Rivkin at the outset of Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (10). “More personal” turns out to mean “more about the author than the subject.” The first-person pronoun abounds; the first of many occurrences of “I” is very early indeed (xiii). If “more personal” is also meant to include the reader as a personal addressee of the text, this too is prominent. “We” joins “I”... Full Review

October 21, 2019
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Norma Broude, ed.
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 328 pp.; 8 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (9781501342509)

Gauguin’s Challenge: New Perspectives after Postmodernism, edited by Norma Broude, is an important and intriguing book published on the threshold of a worldwide examination and redefinition of social mores concerning, among other injustices, the historical depiction of indigenous and colonized women in Western art. Broude’s chosen texts both precede and prepare for, but mostly fall short of, current efforts by many to explore Paul Gauguin’s perceived status as a social pariah, an... Full Review

October 18, 2019
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Mariah Proctor-Tiffany
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019. 232 pp.; 28 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271081120)

In the summer of 1315, Clémence de Hongrie sailed from her childhood home in Naples to marry King Louis X of France. Louis died a year later, leaving Clémence a pregnant widow, and five months after that their infant son Jean also died; Clémence lived the rest of her life as a dowager queen at the French court. On October 5, 1328, in anticipation of her death, she dictated her testament. And after her death on October 13 of that year, her executors, representatives of the king, and a group... Full Review

October 15, 2019
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Asato Ikeda
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2018. 144 pp.; 33 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780824872120)

In The Politics of Painting: Fascism and Japanese Art during the Second World War, Asato Ikeda considers four artists who, she argues, promoted fascist ideology through seemingly nonmilitaristic paintings made in the 1930s and 1940s. Through an examination of the work of Yokoyama Taikan (1868–1958), Yasuda Yukihiko (1884–1978), Uemura Shōen (1875–1949), and Fujita Tsuguharu (1886–1968), Ikeda rethinks conceptions of fascism and its manifestation in the Japanese visual arts,... Full Review

October 11, 2019
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Octavian Esanu, ed.
New York: Routledge, 2018. 156 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $155.00 (9781138563834)

The first time a nude was included in an exhibition in Lebanon, it caused quite a stir. Whereas young Lebanese painters who had studied in Paris were familiar with painting nude models, they found it difficult to show their paintings to the conservative Lebanese public upon their return home.

Lebanon—The Artist’s View: 200 Years of Painting, exhibition catalog (18)

In her pathbreaking 2010 article Necessary Nudes: Hadatha and Mu‘asara in the... Full Review

October 9, 2019
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