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

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Malcolm Bull
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. 160 pp.; 31 b/w ills. Cloth $24.95 (9780691138848)
What is the truth in painting, and what is truth in reality? Revolving around the learned Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), Malcolm Bull’s Inventing Falsehood, Making Truth: Vico and Neapolitan Painting brings us to Naples in the early eighteenth century, offering an analysis of painting and art theory in correlation with the philosophical concepts and insights of Vico’s work on these matters. Vico was educated in rhetoric and law and taught as a professor of rhetoric while writing a... Full Review
June 22, 2017
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Giancarla Periti
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 304 pp.; 100 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300214239)
This book about aristocratic nuns and convent patronage offers an interesting characterization of a resulting corpus of “seductive images” of “profane subjects and sensuous forms” in the context of what Giancarla Periti calls “courtly conventual culture” (1). The idea of the courtly convent interior is a clever one, and it certainly provides a touchstone for investigations into patrician nuns, their motivations, their artists, and the visual and perhaps didactic functions of such imagery in... Full Review
June 21, 2017
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Marnin Young
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 272 pp.; 60 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300208320)
In Realism in the Age of Impressionism: Painting and the Politics of Time, Marnin Young provides an original, compelling argument about how transformations in the perception of temporality fueled a reengagement with Realist painting in France during the late 1870s and 1880s. He charts a range of ways in which time was newly conceptualized in this period, including the move from pre-modern natural cycles to the measured clock of the modern workday; the invention of photographic... Full Review
June 14, 2017
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Steven M. Reiss
Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. 216 pp.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780813934976)
What is it about a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that inspires some owners to endure hardship to see it built and overcome obstacles to prevent its destruction? It is a question implicitly asked and answered by Steven M. Reiss in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, a skillful retelling of the complex history of a 1,200-square-foot Usonian house (originally known as the Pope House) built in 1941 in Falls Church, Virginia. The book, which is organized into three chronological... Full Review
June 13, 2017
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Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson, eds.
Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 512 pp. Paper $50.95 (9781444338669)
The last decade has seen a profusion of anthologies reckoning with “contemporary art”—a contested term. Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present, edited by Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson, is the latest one, but certainly not the last. Their desire is to expand the discussion on contemporary art to include a multiplicity of voices. In the process, Dumbadze and Hudson bring together forty-six international writers. The writings are grouped into fourteen “fluid rubrics,” which are... Full Review
June 9, 2017
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Lawrence Berman
Boston: MFA Publications, 2015. 208 pp.; 52 color ills. Cloth $24.95 (9780878467969)
What is it about antiquities that so compels us to collect them? This is the central question Lawrence Berman asks in The Priest, the Prince, and the Pasha: The Life and Afterlife of an Ancient Egyptian Sculpture. To answer this question, Berman focuses on a single object, the so-called Boston Green Head. Approximately four inches in height, broken off from a standing or kneeling statue, the Green Head is a centerpiece in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA).... Full Review
June 8, 2017
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Mark Hinchman
Early Modern Cultural Studies Series. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. 420 pp.; 78 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9780803254138)
More than any other media, architecture has played a fundamental role in the organization of physical reality according to various social, cultural, and ideological templates. As both a product and producer of identity, architectural forms have inscribed the texture of human life onto the natural environment. Thus, Mark Hinchman’s Portrait of an Island: The Architecture and Material Culture of Gorée, Sénégal, 1758–1837 is a welcome addition to contemporary studies of the history of the... Full Review
June 8, 2017
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Dushko Petrovich, ed.
New York: Dushko Petrovich, 2015. 20 pp. Paper $20.00
Think of a professor and the clichés tumble out: houndstooth blazer, tortoiseshell glasses, air of aloof superiority. The professor, insulated from worldly concerns by tenure, is an icon of the traditional university, a selling point for students willing to take on debt in exchange for wisdom, and a target of right-wing reformers who scorn the leisurely pace of scholarship. While the professor can’t be described as wealthy in this age of hedge funds, she is at least free from anything... Full Review
June 7, 2017
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Jean Hélion
New York: Arcade, 2014. 464 pp. Paper $19.95 (9781628723762)
On August 18, 1939, the French abstract painter Jean Hélion wrote to Raymond Queneau from his studio in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, to say that he was ready to return to France and throw himself back into what he called the “torment of Europe” (Lettres d’Amérique: Correspondance avec Raymond Queneau 1934–1967, Paris: IMEC, 1996, 146). In leaving Paris for New York in 1936 in the aftermath of the collapse of the Popular Front, Hélion had left behind the aesthetic and political... Full Review
June 1, 2017
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Gretchen E. Henderson
London: Reaktion Books, 2015. 240 pp.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $25.00 (9781780235240)
In Ugliness: A Cultural History, Gretchen E. Henderson ventures on a critical journey through the history of ugliness, viewing the concept through the lens of culture and corporeality. Henderson packs an abundance of fascinating case studies and thought-provoking insights into a stimulating conceptual framework, all in the service of her argument about past and contemporary relationships with ugliness. Her aim is not to redefine ugliness but to trace the use and perceptions of it from... Full Review
May 31, 2017
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