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

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Melinda Hartwig, ed.
Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World Series, Number 109.. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 634 pp.; 10 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $195.00 (9781444333503)
A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art, a volume of essays on a wide range of topics related to the study of Egyptian art, is part of Blackwell’s series “Companions to the Ancient World.” The book as a whole is impressive in its scope and theoretical sophistication, helpful to students of both Egyptology and art history, and vital as a snapshot of the current state of Egyptian art history. Its editor, Melinda Hartwig, is to be thanked for the thought and effort involved in producing such... Full Review
October 8, 2015
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Henry Matthews
Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2014. 370 pp.; 300 color ills. Paper $34.95 (9786054701414)
Architectural historian Henry Matthew’s Greco-Roman Cities of Aegean Turkey: History, Archaeology, Architecture is intended to be an educated layperson’s detailed travel companion to the archaeological sites of western Turkey. Given Turkey’s popularity as a tourist destination for history buffs, it is surprising that such a book has not been written previously. As such, it fills a lacuna and is a welcome addition to the genre of guidebooks in the vein of Freya Stark’s Ionia: A... Full Review
October 1, 2015
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Wei-Cheng Lin
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. 344 pp.; 12 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780295993522)
Few sites in China have engaged the religious imagination with more intensity than Mount Wutai, so named for its five “peaks” or “platforms.” Situated in northeast Shanxi Province, nowadays a four-hour bus ride from the city of Taiyuan, and long considered the abode of Mañjuśrī, the bodhisattva of wisdom, Mount Wutai has been a destination of pilgrimage for people of all walks of life. The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) famously visited the site six times during his life. Not surprisingly,... Full Review
October 1, 2015
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Megan Holmes
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. 396 pp.; 80 color ills.; 178 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300176605)
By 1600, there were over fifty miraculous images in Florence: weeping Madonnas, bleeding Christs, paintings and sculptures—often veiled and only occasionally exposed to direct view, surrounded by heaps of votive offerings left by the faithful in gratitude for miracles experienced. Their proliferation during the previous three hundred years in churches, oratories, and street tabernacles throughout the city occurred alongside the founding of many more cults across Florence’s hinterland, or... Full Review
October 1, 2015
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Natalie A. Mault, ed.
Exh. cat. Baton Rouge: LSU Museum of Art, 2014. 88 pp.; 64 color ills. Paper $40.00 (9780615878300)
Exhibition schedule: LSU Museum of Art, Baton Rouge, March 8–July 13, 2014; Telfair Museums, Savannah, January 30–May 3, 2015
In his contribution to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition The Visual Blues, R. A. Lawson writes, “The Harlem Renaissance could not have happened in the South, but it could not have happened without the South” (31; emphasis in original). This statement deftly establishes the raison d’être of the exhibition: to interpret the Harlem Renaissance as a northern phenomenon indebted to its southern musical roots in blues and jazz music. The book draws upon earlier studies that... Full Review
September 24, 2015
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Conrad Rudolph
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 626 pp.; 29 color ills.; 49 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781107037052)
The Mystic Ark is not for the faint of heart. The title refers to one of the most dazzling scholarly achievements of the Middle Ages, an astonishing work that emerged from the intense environment of theological debate that marked Paris as the intellectual capital of twelfth-century Europe. Hugh of Saint Victor (ca. 1096–1141) can be credited as the author of this ambitious undertaking, though “author” does not quite reflect the true nature and full extent of Hugh’s work. Unlike his... Full Review
September 24, 2015
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Charles Colbert
Arts and Intellectual Life in Modern America.. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 320 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780812243253 )
Charles Colbert sets Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art against the backdrop of industrialization. His book addresses a range of artists and critics who worked between the 1840s and 1910s—a period of time that saw the rise of the transcontinental railroad, the factory system, and the modern city. Colbert asserts that within the explosive consumer culture these developments engendered, visual art threatened to become just another object or commodity. But, it did not; rather,... Full Review
September 17, 2015
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Nancy J. Troy
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 320 pp.; 22 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226008691)
On a trip to Los Angeles during graduate school, I made my way to the Mondrian hotel on the Sunset Strip to see James Turrell’s Hi Test (1996). On every floor, light emanated from a hole in the wall shaped like a television screen (pre-flat screen). The sources of light were out of sight, televisions hidden, each tuned to a different channel, each producing diverse, ever-modulating tones. As I read Nancy Troy’s book, even before I reached her discussion of the hotel in question, I... Full Review
September 17, 2015
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Michael W. Cole
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 160 pp.; 20 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780300208207)
While the core argument of Michael W. Cole’s Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Art of the Figure owes something to his brilliant article “The Figura Sforzata: Modelling, Power and the Mannerist Body” (Art History 24, no. 4 [September 2001]: 520–51), his subsequent work on later sixteenth-century Florentine art has facilitated a book of broader significance. The opening lines signal Cole’s critical self-positioning: Historians of Italian... Full Review
September 10, 2015
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Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. 216 pp.; 75 color ills. Paper $24.95 (9780674725348)
Hypercities is an unruly book that does not want to behave. With its attendant website, it is neither fish nor fowl, for it is simultaneously a scholarly book, an introduction to a digital mapping platform, an extension of web-based projects that use the platform, and an activist text. Yet, rather than a lack of organization or rigor on the part of the authors, their intent is clearly to present the reader with a mash-up of genres and points of... Full Review
September 10, 2015
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