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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Robert Bird, Christina Kiaer, and Zachary Cahill, eds.
Exh. cat. Milan: Mousse Publishing, 2018. 768 pp.; 365 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9788867492947)
Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, September 14, 2017–January 14, 2018.
Marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, 2017 was a year rife with crises and controversies that cast 1917’s legacy as both strikingly familiar and impossibly remote. Alongside a rising tide of authoritarianism and Russia again donning the mantle of American adversary (with the charges led this time not by red-baiting conservatives, but by Democrats and liberal pundits seeking to remedy an election gone terribly wrong), alongside the ongoing fight for women’s rights and civil... Full Review
July 30, 2018
Thumbnail
Marcus Milwright
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017. 352 pp.; 14 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9781474409193)
Marcus Milwright’s Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology stakes an implicit—and sometimes explicit—claim for the place of objects and their production in the eastern Mediterranean and the larger Iranian world. Following the author’s work on a related topic, An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology (2010), it illustrates his mastery of written sources as well as the diverse materials, processes, and objects they discuss. With substantial scholarly apparatus in the form of notes,... Full Review
July 27, 2018
Thumbnail
Morgan Pitelka and Alice Y. Tseng, eds.
Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia. New York: Routledge, 2016. 188 pp.; 29 b/w ills. Hardcover $116.00 (9781138186613)
What to do with a retired emperor? Soon after Emperor Akihito announced his intention to abdicate in April 2019, this question captured headlines across Japan. Not merely a response to the unusual circumstances—the last imperial retirement occurred in 1817—the inquiry was advanced as part of a bold appeal: so that he not overshadow his successor, Akihito should leave Tokyo for Kyoto. The proposal was perhaps the most ambitious of many made by Kyoto political groups in... Full Review
July 23, 2018
Thumbnail
Roger Gastman, Trina Calderon, and Caleb Neelon
Exh. cat. Berkeley: Gingko Press Inc., 2015. 354 pp.; 800 ills. Hardcover $49.95 (9781584236016)
Nora Burnett Abrams, ed.
Denver: MCA Denver, 2017. 128 pp. Cloth $24.95 (9781616895754)
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, February 11–May 14, 2017
The stairwell leading down to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s (MCA) first floor simulates the visual experience of a New York City subway. The walls are lined with <span... Full Review
July 20, 2018
Thumbnail
Thumbnail
Jennifer Doyle
Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. 232 pp.; 45 color ills. Paper $23.95 (9780822353133)
Diana Taylor
Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 240 pp.; 74 ills. Paperback $24.95 (9780822359975)
Performance art has become a hot topic of research in art history, and it has surged in popularity judging by the number of performance art classes, conferences, and performance studies departments in UK and US universities. This review will consist of appraising two texts that reckon with performance: Diana Taylor’s Performance (2016) and Jennifer Doyle’s Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art (2013). Taylor, a performance studies and Spanish... Full Review
July 18, 2018
Thumbnail
Thumbnail
Margarita Tupitsyn
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. 288 pp.; 148 color ills.; 129 b/w ills. Hardcover $55.00 (9780300179750)
It is difficult to assess Margarita Tupitsyn’s new book,&nbsp;Moscow Vanguard Art, 1922–1992, because of its strong spirit of partisanship. It covers wide historical ground and brings in a lot of new material gathered from primary sources, but it is also unabashedly selective, its choices circumscribed by the author’s personal history. A well-known art historian and curator of Russian and Soviet avant-garde art, Tupitsyn belongs to the generation of intellectuals who came of age... Full Review
July 16, 2018
Thumbnail
E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, eds.
Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 573 pp.; 23 b/w ills. Paperback $34.95 (9780822360650)
According to E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, the terms “performance,” “queer,” and “blacktino” in the title of their coedited book Blacktino Queer Performance signal collaborations: queer as non-normative sexualities; performance as a lens to examine sociocultural phenomena; and blacktino analytics as a “critical optic [which] allows us to maintain the goals of queer-of-color-critique and to ground it in [. . .] black and brown intergroup relations” (7). On the... Full Review
July 10, 2018
Thumbnail
Olivier Barlet
African Humanities and the Arts. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016. 466 pp. Paperback $39.95 (9781611862119)
Olivier Barlet’s 2016 English translation of Les Cinémas d’Afrique des années 2000 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012) offers scholars and students an impressive and comprehensive study of African film made and produced specifically from 1996 to the early 2000s. The four-hundred-plus-page work focuses on the questions and polemics in filmmakers’ work as well as the criticism that dictates the theoretical framework through which scholars understand African cinema. Barlet... Full Review
July 2, 2018
Thumbnail
Hanna B. Hölling
Oakland: University of California Press, 2017. 264 pp.; 24 ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780520288904)
The discipline of art history has, of late, experienced a surge of interest in the adjacent field of conservation studies. Exactly a decade ago, the research and conservation institutes at the Getty cohosted the symposium “The Object in Transition,” convened to bring artists, art historians, curators, and conservators together to discuss case studies that spanned from modernist painting to Postminimalist latex-based sculpture. The symposium—which one can watch in its entirety... Full Review
June 29, 2018
Thumbnail
Amanda Wunder
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 232 pp.; 34 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Hardcover $84.95 (9780271076645)
Amanda Wunder’s impressive study discusses how sacred artworks were created collaboratively as powerful interventions to mitigate Seville’s severe financial, political, and social crises in late seventeenth-century Spain. She examines works in multiple media, including architecture, painting, sculpture, alhajas (luxury objects prized for both their spiritual or monetary value), printed materials, and ephemera. Many of these were part of urban renewal campaigns responding to the... Full Review
June 27, 2018
Thumbnail