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

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Vibeke Vibolt Knudsen, ed.
Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst, 2000. 231 pp.; 90 color ills. Paper (8790096037)
February 11-May 7, 2000, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
Almost all post-War scholarship on Francisco Goya (1746-1828) has been concerned, in one way or another, with the artist's relation to the political, social, and cultural upheaval that wracked Spain from the 1780s through the 1820s. Over the past decade, the touchstone for thinking about these issues has been Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, organized by Eleanor A. Sayre and Alfonoso E. Pérez Sánchez (Madrid: Museo del Prado, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, and New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988-89). Under the guise of a retrospective, this exhibition presented a highly selective assortment of paintings, drawings, and… Full Review
January 30, 2001
Patricia A. Morton
MIT Press, 2000. 380 pp.; 163 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (0262133628)
In a letter to the curator of the 5th Biennale de Lyon, held in the summer of 2000, Partage d'exotismes (Sharing of Exoticisms), artist Hassan Musa declined an invitation to join the exhibition, claiming that, "Personally, as an artist born in Africa, but with no urge to bear the burden of an African artist, I know that the only opportunities open to me to present my work in public outside Africa are of the 'ethnic' type, where people assign to me the role of 'the African other' in places designed for the kind of seasonal ritual where a certain… Full Review
January 30, 2001
Penelope J. E. Davies
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 265 pp.; 117 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521632366)
Death and the Emperor is an important new book that treats several familiar landmarks of the Eternal City in unfamiliar, stimulating, and insightful ways. The focus of the author's inquiry is the series of tombs and other memorials erected to honor deceased Roman emperors from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Because some of these monuments were built to house the remains of entire dynasties, this elite class of buildings has very few members—in fact, only seven (for eighteen emperors). The first—and the one that established many of the leitmotifs of the group—was the Mausoleum of Augustus, the great tumulus-tomb that Augustus… Full Review
January 29, 2001
Debra Pincus
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 276 pp.; 126 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521593549)
Amidst the massive tombs of later doges, often reaching the entire height of a church from floor to vaulting, the rather more modest memorials to 13th- and 14th-century leaders of Venice may escape the notice of the general public, and indeed have largely escaped the attention of scholars. Debra Pincus amply demonstrates that they are, on the contrary, of considerable interest and importance. Most obviously, the early ducal tombs set the stage for the "grand, wall-filling tombs of the second half of the fifteenth century" (1), which expanded upon but did not greatly deviate from the themes introduced early on… Full Review
January 29, 2001
Gail E. Husch
Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000. 384 pp.; 12 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (1584650060)
In 1972, David Huntington published an engaging and thought-provoking work, his Art and the Excited Spirit: America in the Romantic Period, a study of antebellum culture that has as its thesis the idea that "the American of the Romantic age was wakeful and on the qui vive." "His world was fraught with religion," Huntington told us, "his was an excited spirit." Having had the benefit of the late professor's teaching on this subject, I believe that Huntington felt a kind of electricity emanating from this country's artistic productions of the 1830s and '40s. He saw in a vast… Full Review
January 25, 2001
Barbara Dayer Gallati
Harry N. Abrams in association with Brooklyn Museum, 2000. 192 pp.; 54 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $37.50 (0810945584)
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, May 26-August 13, 2000; The Art Institute of Chicago, September 7-November 26, 2000; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 13, 2000-March 11, 2001.
William Merritt Chase has long been considered a major American artist, if not a New York artist. Brooklyn Museum curator Barbara Dayer Gallati shows how Chase's reputation first evolved, taking no aspect of his art or identity for granted. The catalogue for William Merritt Chase: Modern American Landscapes, 1886-1890 (which initiated at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in May 2000, and ends at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in March 2001) aims to reveal Chase's importance as a modern artist and as a "New York artist" by focusing on a group of urban landscapes with figures produced over… Full Review
January 25, 2001
Deborah Martin Kao, Laura Katzman, and Jenna Webster
Yale University Press in association with Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Museums, 2000. 340 pp.; 24 color ills.; 246 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300083157)
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, February 5-April 30, 2000; The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, June 10-August 27, 2000; The Grey Art Gallery, New York University, October 14, 2000-January 27, 2001; David and Alfred Smart Museum, University of Chicago, April 19-June 17, 2001.
"To me, images are images...They're images, and they can be moving or not. That's all there is to it." So stated the painter and photographer Ben Shahn in a 1965 interview, cited in an appendix of this excellent catalogue that was published to accompany an exhibition of Shahn's early photographs of street life in New York. Shahn's statement summarizes succinctly the main theme that the contributors to this volume wish to address: the relationship between Shahn's paintings and his photographic work, and more specifically, the place of his New York photographs in the development of his humanistic iconography. … Full Review
January 25, 2001
Carmen Bambach
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 548 pp.; 14 color ills.; 209 b/w ills. Cloth $125.00 (0521402182)
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that in order to get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. Similarly, in order to write a good doctoral thesis, you have to choose a good subject. This book, like many another first book in the history of art, is the author's doctoral thesis (Yale, 1988) writ large, and she certainly picked a fantastic topic. The result is one of the most useful books ever written on Italian Renaissance drawings, albeit—it has to be admitted—scarcely one of the most approachable. In saying this, I do not… Full Review
January 25, 2001
Robert Ousterhout
Princeton University Press, 1999. 318 pp.; 209 b/w ills. Cloth $67.50 (0691005354)
Byzantium lies far removed from most twenty-first-century sensibilities, an exotic historical relic of the premodern world. No doubt its most enduring architectural legacy is its churches, scores of which still stand in crowded neighborhoods or rural isolation across the east Mediterranean. These are typically small, frequently domed, and elaborately decorated structures that shape a truly distinctive liturgical environment. The survival of this basic idea in many Orthodox churches today suggests the persistence of a fundamental cultural truth, an almost mystical embodiment of the cosmos as conceived by the medieval mind. Viewed less sympathetically, these compact buildings represent the meager fruit… Full Review
January 18, 2001
Wu Hung
University of Chicago Press, 1999. (0935573275)
David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, February 18-April 18, 1999; University of Oregon Museum of Art, Eugene, OR, July 17-September 12, 1999; Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, October 13-December 9, 1999
Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century is the catalogue for a small but well-focused exhibition of contemporary Chinese art held at the Smart Museum, University of Chicago, from February 18 to April 18, 1999 and subsequently exhibited at the University of Oregon Museum of Art and the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College. Author and exhibition curator, Wu Hung, Harrie Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at University of Chicago, begins his book with a reflection upon the general state of the field. His introduction, "Pushing the Limits, Chinese Experimental Art, 1949 to 1999,"… Full Review
January 10, 2001