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

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Chelsea Foxwell
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 296 pp.; 34 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780226110806)
“What is nihonga, where did it come from, and why is it still around?” (12). These questions comprise the final sentence of the introduction to Chelsea Foxwell’s impressive book and serve as our point of departure into the emergence and evolution of nihonga or “modern Japanese painting” in late nineteenth-century Japan. As Foxwell compellingly argues, the emergence of nihonga was not simply the result of Japan’s shedding its feudal past at the precise moment of the... Full Review
October 20, 2017
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Joan Kee
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 384 pp.; 135 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9780816679881)
Dansaekhwa is a style of abstract painting in which Korean artists explore monotones using various materials. There has been little agreement among Korean theorists on the term, which demonstrates the difficulties of defining it. Although Joan Kee transliterates it as Tansaekhwa in her book Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method, ever since the 2012 exhibition Dansaekhwa at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea,... Full Review
October 20, 2017
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Luke Gartlan
Leiden: Brill, 2015. 384 pp.; 165 ills. Cloth $128.00 (9789004289321)
In the last few years, nineteenth-century Japanese souvenir photography from the port city of Yokohama has witnessed increasing public interest after decades of neglect in institutional archives. In the current decade alone, there have been more than five special exhibitions across Europe dedicated to these photographic works. This unexpected emergence of so-called “Yokohama photography” was pioneered by new critical scholarship. Building upon the persistent research efforts on the visual... Full Review
October 20, 2017
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Tara Zanardi
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 264 pp.; 44 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $94.95 (9780271067247)
Tara Zanardi’s Framing Majismo examines the cultural phenomenon of majismo, the eighteenth-century movement that defined Spanish types drawn from the urban lower classes. She emphasizes that majismo was a product of the Enlightenment as well as a xenophobic reaction to foreign influences, and argues that majismo imagery provides a view into the tensions between gender and class, as well as between tradition and modernity, in eighteenth-century Bourbon Spain. Zanardi brings... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Christopher R. Marshall
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 352 pp.; 88 color ills.; 115 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300174502)
Seventeenth-century Naples was the largest city in Italy, and the second largest in Europe after London. It was also home to a thriving school of painting, with homegrown artists such as Massimo Stanzione, Bernardo Cavallino, and Luca Giordano, as well as foreigners such as Caravaggio, Jusepe de Ribera, and Artemisia Gentileschi. Yet Neapolitan painting has been overshadowed by that of Bologna, Rome, or other schools of Italian painting. Although there has been no shortage of interest in... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Stephennie Mulder
Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. 320 pp.; 121 color ills.; 21 b/w ills. Cloth £ 75.00 (9780748645794)
The topic of ‘Alid shrines in medieval Syria has an established scholarly framework of sectarian arguments. These include, on the one hand, a debate concerning the role of Shi’i doctrine in the proliferation of shrines from the tenth century onward, and on the other, bold statements concerning the culturally transformative impact of the so-called Sunni Revival from the eleventh century. In her introduction to The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi‘is and the Architecture... Full Review
October 13, 2017
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Noam M. Elcott
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 312 pp.; 145 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226328973)
To produce the photographs in his Theaters series (1975–2001), Hiroshi Sugimoto brought his still camera into darkened movie palaces and opened the shutter for the full duration of the feature. What appears in the image is something that was never quite there—a glowing rectangle of pure white light caused by the superimposition of every frame of the film during the hours-long exposure. The extended time of capture reveals something else, something that was always there but hidden or... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Wolfgang Brückle, Pierre Alain Mariaux, and Daniela Mondini, eds.
Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2015. 296 pp.; 148 b/w ills. Cloth $79.99 (9783422073340)
Medieval works of art were made to fit into their specific ecclesiastical or secular contexts. Since the eighteenth century, such objects have been removed from their original intended locations and subsequently destroyed or placed into private or public collections. Detached from original context and use, the perception and presentation of medieval art has brought about an inherent tension: on the one hand this process has led to an understanding of medieval objects as standalone artistic... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Laura Weigert
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 290 pp.; 8 color ills.; 143 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781107040472)
Research on the relation between theater and art in the late Middle Ages relies on a rich history, first highlighted in the work of Emile Mâle and Gustave Cohen at the beginning of the twentieth century. The two prominent scholars started a long tradition of looking at exchanges between art and theater, as well as at the perceived “realism” of these media. In her latest book, Laura Weigert proposes a different understanding of theater and art that concentrates on the realms of the fifteenth-... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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Susan Rather
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 316 pp.; 100 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 ( 9780300214611)
The Hudson River School painter Asher B. Durand makes a bold declaration at the end of Susan Rather’s The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era. Admiring European pictures during a tour abroad, Durand nonetheless hungers for “a sight of the signboards in the streets of New York” (242). He would have relished the stunning cover of Rather’s book, which reproduces five jaunty top hats from a nineteenth-century hatters’ signboard. This detail... Full Review
October 6, 2017
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