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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Mary Roberts
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 50+ color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520280533)
For years now, Mary Roberts has been generating scholarship on the complexities of nineteenth-century Orientalism. Her work emphasizes the interplay between painters, patrons, models, and viewers and, more generally, relations between Western and local actors of this complex world of art production and consumption. Her Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture provides a most welcome continuity with her previous work, as it aims at bringing a... Full Review
June 16, 2016
Thumbnail
Douglas Biow
Haney Foundation Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 328 pp.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780812246711)
The Renaissance individual, by now, is deconstructed, multiplied, shattered, and divided, but again and again it stubbornly returns, resilient and enduring, reintegrated and unified. In a learned synthesis of cultural and intellectual history, Douglas Biow presents a staunch defense of the concept of the individual, boldly asserting its importance in sixteenth-century Italy. Jacob Burckhardt and Stephen Greenblatt here loom large, as does the recent, insightful work of John Martin (John... Full Review
June 16, 2016
Thumbnail
Penny Morrill
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014. 384 pp.; 115 color ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780292759305)
The near total destruction of the sixteenth-century murals in the palatial home of Tomás de la Plaza—an influential cleric in New Spain, dean of the cathedral of Puebla, and patron of the arts—makes for a compelling opening story in Penny Morrill’s new monograph, The Casa del Deán: New World Imagery in a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Mural Cycle. Although much of the original structure and murals were destroyed over the centuries, Morrill re-creates and evaluates key elements of the dean’s... Full Review
June 9, 2016
Thumbnail
Rowland Abiodun
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 440 pp.; 69 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9781107047440)
Rowland Abiodun’s Yoruba Art and Language: Seeking the African in African Art demonstrates how certain Yoruba art forms fit into a larger cultural and linguistic context. Specifically, it examines the fundamentality of oríkì—a word that encompasses a variety of Yoruba literary, verbal, and performance genres including recitations, incantations, chants, curses, laments, dramatic satire, and poetry. According to Abiodun, an examination of oríkì can provide often overlooked... Full Review
June 9, 2016
Thumbnail
Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka
Trans. Krzysztof Z. Cieszkowski. Warsaw: Salix alba Press, 2015. 184 pp.; 129 b/w ills. Paper € 22.50 (9788393093779)
Landscape with Menorah: Jews in the Towns and Cities of the Former Rzeczpospolita of Poland and Lithuania is the revised and updated edition of Krajobraz z menora. Zydzi w miastach i miasteczkach dawnej Rzeszpospolitej (Wrocław: Zaklad Narodowy im Ossolinskich Wydawn, 2008), which was published during the lifetime of Kazimierz Piechotka (1919–2010). His wife and equal collaborator, Maria (1920–), supervised revisions and the fluent translation into English. The Piechotkas,... Full Review
June 2, 2016
Thumbnail
John J. Marciari, Carmen Albendea, Ian McClure, Anikó Bezur, Jens Stenger, and Benito Navarrete Prieto
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 96 pp.; 46 color ills. Paper $20.00 (9780300207866)
Curator John Marciari made headlines in 2010 when he announced his discovery of what he deemed to be an early masterpiece by none other than Diego Velázquez. The painting, depicting the Education of the Virgin, was in poor condition, and it had languished for decades in the Yale University Art Gallery basement. Yet Marciari perceived in it the hand of a master. Writing in Ars Magazine, he hailed the Yale Education as “the most significant addition to [Velázquez’s] work in a... Full Review
June 2, 2016
Thumbnail
Wendy Kozol
Minnapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 280 pp.; 39 b/w ills. Paper $22.50 (9780816681303)
The involvement of photography in helping to contest as well as legitimize war as a means to resolve conflict has been studied by a large number of scholars in recent years. Often motivated by their belief in humanitarianism, scholars commonly aim to salvage photography from its absorption into overt belligerent politics, highlighting instead the role it plays in communicating war atrocities. While as a consequence photography has been seen and defended in academia mainly as a medium that... Full Review
May 26, 2016
Thumbnail
Carmenita Higginbotham
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015. 224 pp.; 36 color ills.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271063935)
The Urban Scene: Race, Reginald Marsh, and American Art is a visually astute, well-researched account of this important American artist as a discerning observer of the changing nature of urban life in the first decades of the twentieth century. Carmenita Higginbotham seamlessly merges theoretical insight, social history, formal analysis, and primary sources in service of an argument that delivers a welcome challenge to settled wisdom on the cultural production of this period. The book... Full Review
May 26, 2016
Thumbnail
Adrian W. B. Randolph
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 328 pp.; 50 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300204780)
Adrian W. B. Randolph’s Touching Objects: Intimate Experiences of Italian Fifteenth-Century Art is an impressive scholarly work, moving effortlessly from discussions of mid-twentieth-century German art historians to contemporary methodological issues around feminism and aesthetics. Randolph’s fluency in language and culture is matched by his conceptual and intellectual confidence. The result is a demonstration of where art history has traveled and what now might be asked and known... Full Review
May 12, 2016
Thumbnail
Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers and Alexander Bortolot, eds.
Exh. cat. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2014. 240 pp.; 500 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9780989371810)
Exhibition schedule: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, April 9–August 17, 2014; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, September 20, 2014–February 8, 2015; Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, March 7–May 10, 2015
Amid their dense vegetation, the forests of West Africa’s Upper Guinea Coast yield a bounty of contradictory impressions. They host both captivating natural beauty and obscure supernatural terrors. They appear intrinsically wild, yet are carefully cultivated by neighboring communities. Their muddy feeder roads and indistinct bush paths render them seemingly remote and impenetrable, but they have served as conduits for countless movements in the name of exchange and conflict. This complex... Full Review
May 5, 2016
Thumbnail