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

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Richard Gasperi
Exh. cat. New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press and Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 2015. 64 pp.; 50 color ills. Cloth $25.00 (9781608010363)
Exhibition schedule: Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, October 4, 2014–February 22, 2015
Clementine Hunter: A Sketchbook, showcases twenty-six previously unseen paintings by renowned Louisiana artist, Clementine Hunter. The oil-on-paper sketches were completed in 1945, shortly after Hunter first began painting. She spent most of her adult life as a domestic and picking cotton on Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches Parish. Collector Richard Gasperi purchased the sketches from the Henry family during the 1970s. They were displayed for the first time in 2014 as part of the... Full Review
January 22, 2018
Clémentine Deliss and Yvette Mutumba, eds.
Exh. cat. Zurich: Diaphanes, 2015. 408 pp.; 300 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9783037348413)
Exhibition schedule: Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, March 5–October 10, 2015
El Hadji Sy: Painting, Performance, Politics was published to accompany an exhibition of works by Senegalese painter, curator, and cultural activist El Hadji Moussa Babacar Sy, generally known as El Hadji Sy or El Sy (born Dakar, Senegal, 1954). El Hadji Sy has been a key player in the complex contemporary construction of African artistic thinking and practice ever since the Senegalese government under Léopold Sédar Senghor (President of the Republic of Senegal, 1960–80) became... Full Review
January 19, 2018
Eberhard Fischer and Lorenz Homberger, eds.
Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Reitberg in association with Scheidegger and Spiess, 2014. 240 pp.; 262 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $39.00 (9783858817617)
Exhibition schedule: Museum Rietberg, Zurich, February 14–June 1, 2014; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, June 27–October 5, 2014; De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, October 25, 2014–February 15, 2015; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, April 7–July 26, 2015
How does a history of art in Africa get written? This writing has to negotiate the shoals and reefs of both its own history of writing but also and perhaps more importantly the framing of its subject matter by another history of art—that of European modernism. The shoals are well known. They come in the form of prescriptions (to students): Do not use the word tribe—it belongs to a colonial era of framing people through their language and material culture that bears little relation... Full Review
January 18, 2018
Catherine Roach
Studies in Art Historiography. New York: Routledge, 2016. 218 pp.; 40 color ills.; 53 b/w ills. Cloth $145.45 (9781472454690)
Catherine Roach’s Pictures-within-Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Britain announces its quirky theme in its title: paintings that appear within paintings. Such pictures provide a guilty pleasure for the art historian, providing—in Roach’s words—“the delighted surprise that comes from identifying an image from memory and seeing it made strange” (19). Yet Roach’s book demonstrates that this is not just an art-historical gimmick or a simple riddle. Rather, through such pictures, artists... Full Review
January 17, 2018
Julian Brooks
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015. 264 pp.; 123 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Hardcover $59.00 (9781606064382)
J. Paul Getty Museum, June 23–September 13, 2015; Frick Collection in New York, October 6, 2015–January 10, 2016.
Andrea del Sarto manages to be both the painter’s painter and the draughtsman’s draughtsman. Best known for paintings, such as the so-called Madonna of the Harpies, that combine Leonardo da Vinci’s sense of the expressive possibilities of chiaroscuro with a strong feeling for the innate beauty of resonant chromatic harmony—a painterly achievement of extraordinary intuitive brilliance—he is also one of the greatest draughtsmen who ever lived. Francesco Bocchi, an underrated writer on... Full Review
January 16, 2018
Elizabeth Kindall
Harvard East Asian Monographs (Book 389). Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016. 504 pp.; 130 color ills. Hardcover $89.95 (9780674088436)
This generously illustrated volume is a welcome contribution to scholarship on seventeenth-century Chinese landscape painting and artistic expressions of loyalism to the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644) after the rise of the Manchu Qing (1644–1911). In highlighting geo-narrative, a previously unrecognized category of site-specific painting, Kindall has richly contextualized the distinctive works of Huang Xiangjian, a Suzhou artist who gained fame for his extraordinary filial... Full Review
January 10, 2018
Anne Nishimura Morse and Anne E. Havinga
Exh. cat. Boston: Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston, 2016. 208 pp.; 145 color ills. Hardcover $60.00 (9780878468270)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 5–July 12, 2015; Japan Society, New York, March 11–June 12, 2016
In the Wake examines how Japanese photographers have processed the disasters of March 11, 2011. On that day, three cataclysmic and interrelated events fell upon Japan like disastrous dominos: first, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the country shifted the earth’s axis several inches and devastated northeast Japan; second, a powerful tsunami resulting from the disruption of the Pacific Ocean floor inundated the Tōhoku region with waves measuring more than 130 feet... Full Review
January 10, 2018
René Brimo
Trans. Kenneth Haltman. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 424 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.97 (9780271073248)
In August 1933, twenty-two-year-old René Brimo traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to research his dissertation in the history of art for the University of Paris. Using Harvard as his base, he planned to study the history of collecting in the United States. His subject, cannily chosen, would enable him to combine academic ambition with commercial interests. In an era of burgeoning internationalism in intellectual circles, he was eager to expand his scholarly contacts. And as the son of a... Full Review
January 9, 2018
Niall Atkinson
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 280 pp.; 50 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9780271071206)
After first poking around in The Noisy Renaissance, I found myself wondering when during the day Donatello worked most efficiently, where he stashed his ready cash, whom he spoke with on a regular basis, and how he responded when he heard a bell ring. After reading Atkinson’s book, I know that Donatello’s response to the ringing of a bell would have depended on where he was, on which bell was sounding, and on the time of day, the day of the week, and the moment in the cycle... Full Review
January 9, 2018
Abigail McEwen and Susanna Temkin
New York: David Zwirner Books, 2016. 192 pp.; 138 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9781941701331)
David Zwirner Gallery, New York, January 7—February 20, 2016
To a degree unparalleled in many other subfields of art history, twentieth-century Latin America has come into focus through exhibitions and accompanying catalogues. Indeed, these exhibitions often presage scholarly immersion in—or even assembly of—a related archive. Witness the dominance of selected institutions in establishing the canon for study of modern and contemporary Latin American art in the anglophone world: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York; the Museum of... Full Review
January 9, 2018