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

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Michael K. Komanecky
Phoenix: Oxford University Press in association with Phoenix Art Museum, 1998. 346 pp.; 137 color ills.; 71 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (0195123972)
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, Dec. 19, 1998-Feb. 28, 1999.
Paintings on copper have long been valued as refined and elegant works of art. The authors of the exhibition catalogue Copper as Canvas have undertaken to evaluate the specific qualities that this material--copper panel used as a painting support--lends to a wide range of works of art. In this ambitious project they have made an important contribution, not only in the information they have gathered but in the conception of the exhibition itself. Other exhibitions have explored the... Full Review
May 10, 2000
Jan Ostrowski
Yale University Press, 1998. 380 pp.; 190 color ills.; 54 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300079184)
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD, March 2-May 9, 1999; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, June 5-September 6, 1999; Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL, September 25-November 28, 1999; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, December 18, 1999-February 27, 2000; Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK, March 25-June18, 2000; The Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland, Summer 2000.
Given the relative difficulty of transporting a collection of such extraordinary breadth and national importance, it is not surprising that the last American exhibition of Polish art from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took place close to thirty years ago. While readers may be familiar with its fairly limited catalogue, as well as important later texts such as Jan Bialostocki's The Art of the Renaissance in Eastern Europe and Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann's recent Court,... Full Review
April 24, 2000
Katie Scott and Genevieve Warwick
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 240 pp. Cloth $85.00 (0521640040)
The evaluation of more or less heroic artists is still standard practice in studies of seventeenth-century French art. Consider, for example, the colloquium on Pierre Mignard at the Louvre in 1995, and the Georges de La Tour exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris from 1997-98. This focus on individual "masters" is, of course, hardly unusual in the discipline of art history. It seems, however, that many specialists of early modern French visual culture have not only remained dedicated to such... Full Review
April 20, 2000
Mark Jarzombek
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 327 pp.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0521582385)
Mark Jarzombek's The Psychologizing of Modernity is in many respects a timely book. Drawing upon an impressive range of readings undertaken in 1994 at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Jarzombek brings together parts of several of his earlier writings for the journal Assemblage, most significantly his 1994 essay, "De-Scribing the Language of Looking: Woelfflin and the History of Aesthetic Experientialism." What is new is that the earlier question of "how would I... Full Review
April 20, 2000
Calvin B. Kendall
University of Toronto Press, 1998. 401 pp.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0802042627)
Calvin Kendall has a wonderful topic, the verse inscriptions that decorate a large number of Romanesque church portals. While I sometimes disagree sharply with Kendall's treatment of his material, he gets full marks for paying attention to it in the first place; it is an embarrassment to art history that such an important and literally obvious topic was first studied monographically by a professor of English. And, whatever disagreements one may have with Kendall's method and conclusions, the... Full Review
April 18, 2000
William Alexander McClung
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 300 pp.; 150 b/w ills. Cloth (0520218272)
LA is a hard city to get in focus. Many American and non-American immigrants thought of it as an ideal destination. But much of the local literature is devoted to the natural disasters--earthquakes and fires--and to stories of crime. Because it is a new, very rich city without well-established cultural traditions--and because it is the center of the film industry and a place dependent on massive water imports--LA can seem a highly artificial city. Perhaps that is why this landscape inspires... Full Review
April 15, 2000
Robin Aselson
Getty Trust Publications, 1999. 160 pp.; 50 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0892365560)
As an English professor, I rarely have the pleasure of reviewing visually stunning books, so my assessment of this book as lovely to look at does not rest on the basis of much comparison. The three essays that form the text, the plentiful (and lush) illustrations, and the lengthy chronology of Siddons's life contained in this volume make up a fascinating picture of Siddons's career and its alchemy with eighteenth-century portraiture. Siddons's stage roles are only one factor in what the... Full Review
April 11, 2000
Dorothea Olkowski
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 310 pp.; 10 b/w ills. Paper $18.95 (0520216938)
Foucault once stated that the 20th century would one day be called Deleuzian, citing Gilles Deleuze's profound ability to theorize radical change on the ontological level, beyond the restricting epistemological logic of hierarchic, organic thought that has dominated philosophical and semiotic discourse since the Enlightenment. Although Deleuze's groundbreaking work with Felix Guattari--specifically Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus--and such terms as "rhizomatics,"... Full Review
April 11, 2000
Jeff Kowalski
Oxford University Press, 2016. 432 pp. $125.00 (9780195079616)
Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol is one of the latest in a series of recent works on architecture in ancient Middle America. Jeff Kowalski's volume joins The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews (Scribner, 1998), and Stephen Houston's edited volumes Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture (Dumbarton Oaks, 1999), and Royal Courts of the Maya (with Takeshi Inomata, Westview Press,... Full Review
April 7, 2000
Emma Barker
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 272 pp.; 60 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Paper $27.50 (0300077831)
Mary Anne Staniszewski
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 400 pp.; 204 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262194023)
More than twenty years have passed since scholars Carol Duncan, Brian O'Doherty, and Alan Wallach published their groundbreaking critical analyses of art museums and their display strategies. These incisive essays launched a wave of vehement institutional critiques that effectively pitted critically informed academic concerns against contemporary museum practices. Two of the more recent additions to the fray--Mary Anne Staniszewski's The Power of Display and the Open University's... Full Review
April 5, 2000