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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 99 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300207170)
The works of art commissioned by ancient Maya royal courts captivate and confound. Hieroglyphic captions accompany images of kings, queens, and noble families, but ancient voices on gods, the cosmos, and epic heroes are idiosyncratic at best, opaque at worst. Intuition guided early scholarly interpretations, buttressed by colonial texts, such as the sixteenth-century K’iche Maya Popol Vuh, which seemingly held a wealth of analogous descriptions for colorful Classic-period (ca. 250–900 CE)... Full Review
March 13, 2018
Amelia Jones and Erin Silver
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016. 424 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Paperback £ 18.99 (9780719096426)
Why is queer feminism not an established subdiscipline in art history or a more influential politic in curating, art criticism, or visual theory? Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories, edited by Amelia Jones and Erin Silver, begins to answer these questions and to identify the problems this absence occasions or exacerbates. Twenty chapters by artists, scholars, and curators of different generations are framed by an introduction by Jones, an epilogue by Silver, and... Full Review
March 13, 2018
Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, eds.
London: Open Humanities Press, 2015. 402 pp. Hardcover £ 14.13 (9781785420054)
T. J. Demos
Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017. 132 pp.; 25 color ills. Hardcover € 18.00 (9783956792106)
Since the glaciers of the last ice age receded, 11,700 years ago, humanity has lived under the stable climatic conditions of the geologic epoch known as the Holocene. Agriculture flourished during this period, and sedentary societies sprouted up around the globe. Yet a growing number of scientists contend that human-induced alterations to the biosphere, beginning with the invention of the coal-fired steam engine in the eighteenth century and accelerating through the atomic age, have... Full Review
March 12, 2018
Margaret MacNamidhe
London and New York: I.B. Taurus, 2015. 256 pp.; 36 color ills. Hardcover $49.00 (9781780769370)
Margaret MacNamidhe’s Delacroix and His Forgotten World: The Origins of Romantic Painting seeks to revise the narrative of Romantic history painting in France by ascribing to the Salon of 1824 a much more transformative role than it has played in previous art historical accounts. MacNamidhe argues that the art criticism that the Salon of 1824 generated, not only regarding Eugène Delacroix’s provocative entry Scenes from the Massacres at Chios: Greek Families Awaiting Death or... Full Review
March 12, 2018
Sophie Orlando
Paris: Dis Voir, 2016. 128 pp.; 30 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. Paperback $24.00 (9782914563765)
“It would be a mistake to emphasize only the socio-political determinants of mass emigration and not to fully understand the actual aims of individual artists who left their countries of origin simply to fulfill their artistic ambitions abroad. We should also recognise the peculiarity of these ambitions, which are not fulfilled merely by a success in the market-place but by the artist’s entry into the history of art.”—Rasheed Araeen, The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in... Full Review
March 8, 2018
Shira Brisman
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 320 pp.; 49 color ills.; 86 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9780226354750)
Albrecht Dürer’s importance rests on many factors besides artistry. His capabilities as draftsman and storyteller, his gift for absorbing foreign artistic styles, and all the ineffables he termed ingenium: these would have been capabilities appreciated only in Nuremberg and the vicinity had there not been a new technology for broadcasting talent. It was perhaps market saturation that led Dürer to printing. Nuremberg had enough painters to meet its needs. But already in Michael... Full Review
March 7, 2018
Michelle Apotsos
New York: Routledge, 2016. 216 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Hardcover $144.00 (9781138192454)
A book-length scholarly work on architecture on the African continent is so rare that a new publication is cause for celebration in the small community of scholars who study this topic. Michelle Apotsos’s in-depth, diachronic study of architecture in the Islamic community of Larabanga in northern Ghana fits the bill. The book accomplishes multiple tasks. It reconstructs the history of Larabanga as a seat of Islam in the West African savanna—including the history of its dominant ethnic... Full Review
March 5, 2018
Robert Mills
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 398 pp.; 8 color ills.; 78 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226169125)
Robert Mills’s Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages is a brave and important book that future studies of sexuality and gender will need to contend with. Through attentive analyses of diverse texts and images, Mills destabilizes a variety of givens and orthodoxies, both medieval and modern. Seeing Sodomy enters the politically charged debates swirling around issues of social constructionism and essentialism—especially as linked to Michel Foucault’s conclusion in his influential... Full Review
February 22, 2018
Marc Michael Epstein, ed.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 288 pp.; 278 color ills.; 11 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780691165240)
The making of this book extended over twenty years. The full story of the precious works of art it explores will perhaps be told one day. What we gather from the foreword by the editor (who also wrote most of the text) is that from the beginning the book was intended to reach the uninitiated public and not aimed at a restricted club of specialists. The result, now on our tables, is spectacular. Princeton University Press, under the directorship of Dr. Brigitta van Rheinberg, permitted the... Full Review
February 21, 2018
Glenn Parsons
Malden, MA: Polity, 2015. 176 pp. Paperback $22.95 (9780745663890)
Glenn Parsons, an associate professor of philosophy at Ryerson University in Toronto, has managed a very difficult task: he has written a solid philosophy book about design that is firmly grounded in design and the problems of designers. Parsons’s introduction stakes out his goal—“showing that design is a realm worthy of philosophical exploration in its own right” (3)—but his book, in contrast to much of what is labeled “design philosophy,” is about design as analyzed by a philosopher... Full Review
February 15, 2018