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

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Stefanie Solum
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 288 pp.; 4 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $119.95 (9781409462033)
Stefanie Solum opens this stimulating book by discussing a question fundamental for those interested in artistic patronage in Renaissance Florence: whether or not laywomen commissioned significant paintings, sculptures, or buildings in the city during the fifteenth century. Archival sources, the lifeblood of patronage studies, suggest that they did not; essentially nothing in the existing documentary record ties any woman, as patron, to any major fifteenth-century project (6). Arguing that... Full Review
September 16, 2016
Megan R. Luke
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 352 pp.; 22 color ills.; 98 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226085180)
Doing justice to the importance of Megan R. Luke’s compelling study of the German artist Kurt Schwitters’s late work of the 1930s and 1940s requires taking stock of how Schwitters’s richly contradictory art has previously been understood. The story as usually told—following John Elderfield’s foundational monograph (Kurt Schwitters, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985)—goes something like this: soon after the end of the First World War, Schwitters began making what he called... Full Review
September 15, 2016
Anne Umland, Blair Hartzell, and Scott Gerson, eds.
New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2014. 350 pp. E-book $24.99 (9780870708046)
Exhibition schedule: Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 13–June 6, 2011
Begun in the winter of 1912 and known collectively as the papiers collés, Pablo Picasso’s collages of pasted papers, from newsprint and wallpaper to fine drawing paper, have been the battleground for several of the most fraught methodological debates in modernist art history. In the 1980s and 1990s, the interpretive field was divided between, on the one hand, scholars who read the newspapers as incorporating conscious reference by Picasso to the political events or mass cultural... Full Review
September 14, 2016
Michael Hall
New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 508 pp.; 200 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780300208023)
The study of Victorian architecture has matured. At the forefront of recent achievements in scholarship now stands Michael Hall’s enormous and enormously rich biography of one of the greatest High Victorians, George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907). Hall’s monumental achievement is twofold. First, he has conquered the intrinsic difficulty of the project. Bodley’s personal and office papers are lost, and this unhappy paucity is complemented by the almost more troublesome richness of the surviving... Full Review
September 1, 2016
Foong Ping
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. 318 pp.; 63 color ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780674417151)
The cover of Foong Ping’s The Efficacious Landscape: On the Authorities of Painting at the Northern Song Court features a detail from a painting titled Early Spring, dated 1072 and signed by Guo Xi. By virtue of its imposing size and matchless virtuosity of brushwork as well as the relative abundance of historical records concerning Guo Xi, a famed court painter of the Northern Song period (960–1127), this magnificent work in ink and light colors on silk occupies a central... Full Review
September 1, 2016
Kristine Juncker
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014. 216 pp.; 28 color ills.; 15 b/w ills. Cloth $74.95 (9780813049700)
In Afro-Cuban Religious Arts: Popular Expressions of Cultural Inheritance in Espiritismo and Santería, Kristine Juncker combines the study of material culture with the methodological tools of anthropology to trace the history of Afro-Cuban religious arts. Hers is a longitudinal study that begins with the abolition of slavery in 1886, when former slaves migrated to Havana, and ends in an old building in Harlem in the 1960s where Caribbean immigrants congregated to ask the spirits of the... Full Review
August 25, 2016
Leon Wainwright
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011. 208 pp.; 20 b/w ills. Paper $30.95 (9780719085949)
Theoretical literature on Caribbean art is rare, which is why any book that is published on the topic deserves particular attention. In Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean, Leon Wainwright explores the state of transnational Caribbean art in five chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. Arguing for a greater consideration of the Caribbean in the writing of a new transnational art history, he looks at the contributions of Caribbean artists to modern and contemporary art.... Full Review
August 25, 2016
Sarah Staniforth, ed.
Readings in Conservation. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2013. 456 pp.; 10 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Paper $70.00 (9781606061428)
Historical Perspectives on Preventive Conservation is the sixth installment in the Getty Conservation Institute’s “Readings in Conservation” series, which presents compilations of texts that the editors consider to be integral to the development of the theory and practice of the conservation profession. The series began with Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (1996) and this has been followed by (to present) additional titles relating to... Full Review
August 25, 2016
Wendy Bellion
Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. 388 pp.; 12 color ills.; 83 b/w ills.; 95 ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780807833889)
Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America, the title of Wendy Bellion’s impressive book, aptly captures the primary themes of her study of Federal-period American visual culture. Her concern is with demonstrating the agency of looking: how active viewing reflected political ideologies and encouraged the emergence of community and national identities in the decades following the Revolution. Bellion casts “optical pleasure, play, and deceit” as... Full Review
August 25, 2016
Audrey Lewis, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2015. 208 pp.; 120 ills. Cloth $55.00 (9781857599411)
Exhibition schedule: Brandywine River Museum of Art, Chadds Ford, PA, April 25–July 19, 2015
In conjunction with the first exhibition project in over twenty years to provide an in-depth examination of the work of painter Horace Pippin, this catalogue’s six contributing essayists focus their texts to contrast with the platitudes that have defined Pippin’s work since the beginning of his public exhibition history in the late 1930s. These standard interpretations stubbornly persisted without critical scrutiny and “with the artist’s complicity” (53), in the words of Anne Monahan, former... Full Review
August 18, 2016