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

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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
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
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
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
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
Eugenie Tsai, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Brooklyn Museum, 2015. 192 pp.; 122 color ills. Cloth $49.95 (9783791354309)
Exhibition schedule: Brooklyn Museum, New York, February 20–May 24, 2015
Kehinde Wiley’s lavish paintings demand a lushly illustrated and deeply contemplated exhibition catalogue, which is what Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic provides. It frames the artist’s oeuvre, beginning with his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2001, and spans his recent developments and the increasingly global scope of his art. The volume joins a considerable body of illustrated book-length attention to the artist, and avoids the more conventional exhibition catalogue format... Full Review
April 28, 2016
Leah Dickerman and Elsa Smithgall
Exh. cat. New York and Washington, DC: Museum of Modern Art and Phillips Collection, 2015. 192 pp. Cloth $50.00 (9780870709647)
Exhibition schedule: One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North, Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 3–September 7, 2015; People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, September 10, 2016–January 17, 2017
Jacob Lawrence figures prominently in the small cohort of African American modernists to achieve renown in their lifetimes. In his case, that recognition came early, bound up with the reception of The Migration of the Negro, his narrative painting cycle of 1941 that is now known as the Migration Series. Over a couple of years, he earned a fellowship to develop it, researched and painted its sixty tempera panels, and published twenty-six in Fortune Magazine. In 1942, he... Full Review
April 28, 2016
David Kertai
New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 368 pp.; 24 color ills.; 73 b/w ills. Cloth $140.00 (9780198723189)
Rulers of the Late Assyrian Empire (also known as the Neo-Assyrian Empire, ca. 900–612 BCE) constructed monumental royal palaces as part of large state-sponsored building programs at Assur, Kalḫu (Nimrud), Dur-Sharruken (Khorsabad), and Nineveh, the royal centers of the Assyrian heartland in present-day northern Iraq. These structures served as the principal residences of the royal family, as well as the administrative and ceremonial centers of state. Previous studies of this building type... Full Review
April 21, 2016
Mary Ann Eaverly
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013. 192 pp.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780472119110)
Mary Ann Eaverly’s Tan Men/Pale Women: Color and Gender in Archaic Greece and Egypt, a Comparative Approach addresses the skin color differentiation of men and women in ancient Egyptian and Greek art. Eaverly criticizes the marginalization of this topic in current scholarly discussion and contends that, in instances where the topic has been explored, interpretations are generally outdated. According to Eaverly, the consensus that male/female skin color differentiation occurs because it... Full Review
April 14, 2016
Eric Jan Sluijter
Oculi: Studies in the Arts of the Low Countries, 14. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2015. 496 pp.; 329 color ills.; 297 b/w ills. Cloth $210.00 (9789027249661)
La peinture d’histoire occupe une place singulière dans l’histoire de l’art hollandais du XVIIe siècle. Cette peinture universelle qui, contrairement aux genres, s’adressent aux talents particuliers, suppose la maîtrise de toutes les parties de la peinture, est considérée théoriquement comme «le degré le plus haut et le plus important de l’art de peinture» (Samuel van Hoogstraten). De la peinture, elle est considérée en effet comme la partie la plus difficile, qui exige d’idéaliser la nature... Full Review
April 7, 2016