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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Henry Taylor, Zadie Smith, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Charles Gaines, and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
New York and Los Angeles: Rizzoli Electa and Blum & Poe, 2018. 320 pp.; 198 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780847863105)
Henry Taylor: The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Momma Was Stolen, the first monograph on Henry Taylor, offers a near-encyclopedic visual record of his work. It is filled with almost two hundred large, glossy, full-color plates that feature carefully photographed gallery installations among beautiful reproductions of the paintings for which Taylor is best known. Paging through this record, readers will find that Taylor’s decades of practice have yielded a distinct form of... Full Review
June 3, 2019
Thumbnail
Jennifer L. Shaw
London: Reaktion Books, 2017. 256 pp.; 100 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth £ 30.00 (9781780237282)
“I’m obsessed with the exception. I see it as bigger than nature. It’s all I see. The rule interests me only for its leftovers with which I make my swill. In this way, I deliberately downgrade myself. Too bad for me” (102). This quote from Claude Cahun, drawn from Cahun and Marcel Moore’s 1930 publication, Aveux non avenus (Disavowals), appears about three-quarters of the way through Jennifer L. Shaw’s Exist Otherwise: The Life and Works of Claude Cahun. However, its... Full Review
May 31, 2019
Thumbnail
Michael Marrinan
Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2017. 400 pp.; 136 color ills.; 59 b/w ills. Hardcover $69.95 (9781606065075)
Gustave Caillebotte has long presented historians of nineteenth-century art with contradictions: here was a champion of and participant in the Impressionist movement who grew up with privilege and became, by dint of his father’s business acumen, a millionaire. Accounts of his artistic production (working from a scant archive) must always contend with how Caillebotte could produce paintings that look more naturalist than Impressionist and would seem to presage social critiques more common... Full Review
May 29, 2019
Thumbnail
Denise Murrell
Exh. cat. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 224 pp.; 177 color ills. Cloth $ 50.00 (9780300229066)
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, October 24, 2018–February 10, 2019; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, March 25–July 14, 2019
Scholars are continually engaged in reassessing evidence, and if they are diligent and perceptive enough they discover new ways of seeing our world. Such is the achievement of Denise Murrell’s 2013 dissertation, “Seeing Laure: Race and Modernity from Manet’s Olympia to Matisse, Bearden and Beyond,” written for the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University under the supervision of Professor Anne Higonnet. Three of Murrell’s other committee members—Alexander... Full Review
Thumbnail
Gary Garrels, Jon-Ove Steihaug, and Sheena Wagstaff, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017. 256 pp.; 120 color ills. Hardcover $45.00 (9781588396235)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 24–October 9, 2017; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018; The Munch Museum, Oslo, May 12–September 9, 2018
“My art has been an act of confession.” So opens the preface to Gary Garrels, Jon-Ove Steihaug, and Sheena Wagstaff’s exhibition catalogue for Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, which took place in San Francisco, New York, and Oslo from June 2017 to September 2018. Edvard Munch (1863–1944) made this comment toward the end of his life, which is significant since the paintings he produced in his later years formed the focus of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue,... Full Review
May 23, 2019
Thumbnail
Shelley Drake Hawks
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 96 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780295741956)
Shelley Drake Hawks’s The Art of Resistance: Painting by Candlelight in Mao’s China is a valuable contribution to Chinese art history and China studies that illuminates the plight of artists during the Cultural Revolution (1966­­–76). Hawks argues that in spite of overwhelming oppression, Chinese artists endured the Cultural Revolution by visualizing their feelings of disillusionment and dissent through art. The expression “painting by candlelight” (ix) refers to the unsanctioned,... Full Review
May 22, 2019
Thumbnail
Kathryn Brown
London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. 392 pp.; 8 color ills.; 82 b/w ills. Cloth £ 110.00 (9781501326837)
From the end of World War I to his death in 1954, Henri Matisse engaged in a number of notable experiments with the livre d’artiste. Kathryn Brown’s expansive study aims to show how Matisse’s artistic production and his thinking on creativity developed through an ongoing dialogue with literary texts, bringing to the fore the important role played by book production within the artist’s overall output. Through multiple fascinating case studies, Brown explores a range of intersecting... Full Review
May 20, 2019
Thumbnail
William Schaefer
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 304 pp.; 8 color ills.; 38 b/w ills. Paperback $27.95 (9780822369196)
A picture of flickering bamboo leaves in a slick Shanghai magazine is carefully inscribed in Chinese characters as a “painting album” (huaben) and is impressed with an artist’s seal—not of a brush-and-ink painter, but of the photographer of the plant.A short story features a narrator who spots an earthen mound from a train window and imagines an Egyptian-style mummy of a royal concubine entombed within emerging to haunt the streets of Shanghai.A painting entitled... Full Review
May 17, 2019
Thumbnail
Randi Korn
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 254 pp.; 49 ills. Cloth $79.00 (9781538106358)
“The most important thing is to have an impact on people,” said Kaywin Feldman to the Washington Post’s Peggy McGlone for an article in January 2019 about her historic appointment as the first female director of the august National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.In an era of political upheaval, climate change, demographic shifts, technological takeover, and economic uncertainty, forward-thinking museum leaders like Feldman are reconsidering what counts as success. Numbers... Full Review
May 13, 2019
Thumbnail
Colin Gunckel
Exh. cat. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018. 240 pp.; 12 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9780895511652)
Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, September 16, 2017–February 10, 2019
In 1967, the first pages of the publication La Raza were printed in the basement of the Church of the Epiphany, in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, under the encouragement of Father John Luce, an Episcopalian priest who supported the Chicano Civil Rights Movement (also known as El Movimiento). Over the next ten years and the course of four dozen issues, the newspaper chronicled El Movimiento, expanding into a magazine in the process. By 1977, conflict, political repression, and... Full Review
May 8, 2019
Thumbnail