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

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Robert Williams
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 314 pp.; 113 b/w ills. Cloth £75.00 (9781107131507)
In Raphael and the Redefinition of Art in Renaissance Italy, Robert Williams has three aims. First, he wants to offer a new account of the achievement of Raphael, emphasizing his expansion of painting’s expressive and conceptual range. Second, he seeks to redefine the Renaissance in Raphael’s image, arguing that Raphael transformed Renaissance art in essential ways that he thinks have been misplaced by recent art historians. Third, he argues for the reorientation of the whole of art history itself, using Raphael to expose the prejudices of the field and the problems in current attitudes toward art and artists. Ultimately… Full Review
May 17, 2018
Leon Wainwright
Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017. 240 pp.; 45 color ills.; 5 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781781384176)
With the objective of freeing the art of British artists of African, Asian, and Caribbean descent, known as “black British artists,” from its historically racialized silo, Leon Wainwright’s new book, Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art, sets out the author’s ambitious project: to bring the philosophy of phenomenology to bear upon these artworks. This book is theoretically well-grounded, and Wainwright has clearly spent a great deal of time contemplating Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Jacques Derrida, among others. However, he has also been in dialogue with scholars and critics… Full Review
May 14, 2018
Heinrich Wölfflin
Trans Jonathan Blower 100th Anniversary Edition. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015. 368 pp.; 122 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9781606064528)
Wölfflin and the Promise of Anonymity From a certain perspective, it is unclear why art history needs a new translation of Heinrich Wölfflin’s The Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art. There are a range of other foundational documents of the discipline that have yet to receive even a first hearing. Moreover, the M. D. Hottinger translation of the text is in print and widely available, and retains much of the elegance, if not the letter, of Wölfflin’s  prose. I gather, too, that readers of the new hundredth-anniversary edition are hardly gravitating… Full Review
May 11, 2018
Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez, eds.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 392 pp.; 21 color ills.; 64 b/w ills. Hardcover $30.00 (9780295999579)
Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez have done a great service to the field of visual culture studies with the publication of Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture. They have brought together an important collection of recent essays on the eponymous themes and topics, but they have also produced with this volume (stemming from a 2014 VolkswagenStiftung-sponsored symposium in Hanover, Germany) a nodal point in the broadening network of intellectual activity concerned with questions of blackness and the visual among academics and artists, from the emerging to the established. This rich scholarly collection bridges the gap… Full Review
May 9, 2018
Jacqueline Jung
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 282 pp.; 30 color ills.; 180 b/w ills. Cloth $113.00 (9781107022959)
The Gothic Screen contributes to the body of integrative studies of Gothic art and architecture with an examination of the monumental choir screen that stood between the liturgical choir and the nave and ambulatory. Not a comprehensive catalogue of Gothic screens, the book seeks to “expand our sense of what screens accomplished in their ecclesiastical setting,” which is here understood as “both the physical setting of the Gothic church and the social environment that the church shaped” (2). In this vein, Jacqueline Jung focuses attention on how a screen’s architectural design and sculptural program forged community and structured identity among… Full Review
May 8, 2018
Sarah Williams Goldhagen
New York: HarperCollins, 2017. 384 pp. Cloth $40.00 (9780061957802)
Critics lamenting the sorry state of today’s built environment are legion. Only a few recognize that many of those responsible for this situation are members of a professional and academic establishment that emerged during the past quarter century, virtually controlling the discourse in the design professions throughout the world. Sarah Williams Goldhagen, a distinguished architectural historian who taught at Harvard for ten years and was the architecture critic at the New Republic for eight, begins her new book by suggesting that she is one of these enlightened few. In previous books about Louis Kahn’s monumental architecture and Moshe Safdie’s global… Full Review
May 3, 2018
Claire Tancons and Krista Thompson, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and New Orleans: Independent Curators International and Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, 2016. 230 pp.; 100 color ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9780916365899)
Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, March 7–June 7, 2015; National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, January 14–March 18, 2016; National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, April 28–July 10, 2016; DuSable Museum of African American History, May 23–August 13, 2017; Museum of the African Diaspora, September 20, 2017–March 04, 2018; Ulrich Museum of Art, April 21–August 12, 2018
EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean was published in conjunction with the launch of a traveling group exhibition showcasing the work of nine contemporary artists, each from the circum-Caribbean or its diaspora: John Beadle, Charles Campbell, Christophe Chassol, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Marlon Griffith, Hew Locke, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, and Cauleen Smith. The artists were commissioned to create performance works in public spaces in cities with active carnival traditions, from Nassau, Bahamas, and Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Notting Hill, London, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The catalogue features archival documentary traces of each performance using photographs… Full Review
May 3, 2018
James Romaine and Phoebe Wolfskill, eds.
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 204 pp.; 33 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Hardcover $79.95 (9780271077741)
Beholding Christ and Christianity in African American Art, edited by James Romaine and Phoebe Wolfskill, offers a unified and underexamined perspective on artwork by late nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century African American artists. Each of the fourteen chapters showcases a selected artwork by an individual artist, highlighting how “engagement with religious subjects, symbols, or themes can be an expression of an array of concerns related to racial, political, and socioeconomic identity” (3). From neoclassical sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis, modernist painters Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley Jr. and others, to self-taught artists like William Edmondson, the case studies… Full Review
May 2, 2018
Robert Storr
Exh. cat. New York: David Zwirner Books, 2015. 112 pp.; 74 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781941701089)
David Zwirner Gallery, London, October 11–November 22, 2014
In Untitled (Mirror Girl) (2014), a young woman, voluptuous, luxuriating in her nudity, strikes a pose in front of her star-trimmed mirror. She holds her breasts in her hands to emulate a magazine spread, and she is stunning. An assortment of clothes and shoes decorate the floor beneath her, their colors and textures rhyming with the geometrical patterns across the rug and wallpaper. A cat sits quietly in the background, creating a collage effect—a technique Kerry James Marshall has used throughout his career. An eroticized charge emanates through the woman’s open gaze, and the conditions of the room, where surfaces… Full Review
May 1, 2018
Anna Dezeuze
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017. 344 pp.; 72 b/w ills. Paperback €19.99 (9781526112903)
Anna Dezeuze’s ambitious book Almost Nothing: Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art establishes a lineage for work from the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s that engages with the issue of precariousness. Dezeuze compellingly argues that, beginning in the late 1950s, artists began to mine a conceptually fertile vein of lived experiences at the margins—whether actual or assumed. She understands the term “precarious” as established by the artist Thomas Hirschhorn—whose works of the 1990s and the following decade are considered in the book’s introduction and later chapters—as having to do with human actions and decisions and thus… Full Review
May 1, 2018