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

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Norma Broude, ed.
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 328 pp.; 8 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (9781501342509)
Gauguin’s Challenge: New Perspectives after Postmodernism, edited by Norma Broude, is an important and intriguing book published on the threshold of a worldwide examination and redefinition of social mores concerning, among other injustices, the historical depiction of indigenous and colonized women in Western art. Broude’s chosen texts both precede and prepare for, but mostly fall short of, current efforts by many to explore Paul Gauguin’s perceived status as a social pariah, an arrogant white colonialist, and a predator of young Polynesian women. For decades, many shrugged off his behavior as that of “a man of his times.” Then, in… Full Review
October 18, 2019
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Mariah Proctor-Tiffany
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019. 232 pp.; 28 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271081120)
In the summer of 1315, Clémence de Hongrie sailed from her childhood home in Naples to marry King Louis X of France. Louis died a year later, leaving Clémence a pregnant widow, and five months after that their infant son Jean also died; Clémence lived the rest of her life as a dowager queen at the French court. On October 5, 1328, in anticipation of her death, she dictated her testament. And after her death on October 13 of that year, her executors, representatives of the king, and a group of goldsmiths gathered to inventory and value her possessions as… Full Review
October 15, 2019
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Asato Ikeda
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 2018. 144 pp.; 33 color ills.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780824872120)
In The Politics of Painting: Fascism and Japanese Art during the Second World War, Asato Ikeda considers four artists who, she argues, promoted fascist ideology through seemingly nonmilitaristic paintings made in the 1930s and 1940s. Through an examination of the work of Yokoyama Taikan (1868–1958), Yasuda Yukihiko (1884–1978), Uemura Shōen (1875–1949), and Fujita Tsuguharu (1886–1968), Ikeda rethinks conceptions of fascism and its manifestation in the Japanese visual arts, as well as these artists’ relation to fascism internationally. Ikeda argues that Japanese fascism emerged as a response to the “problem” of modernity: whereas during the Meiji period (1868–1912), the state… Full Review
October 11, 2019
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Octavian Esanu, ed.
New York: Routledge, 2018. 156 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $155.00 (9781138563834)
The first time a nude was included in an exhibition in Lebanon, it caused quite a stir. Whereas young Lebanese painters who had studied in Paris were familiar with painting nude models, they found it difficult to show their paintings to the conservative Lebanese public upon their return home. Lebanon—The Artist’s View: 200 Years of Painting, exhibition catalog (18) In her pathbreaking 2010 article “Necessary Nudes: Hadatha and Mu‘asara in the Lives of Modern Lebanese,” included here, Kirsten Scheid contends that, contrary to common assumption, artists in Mandate-era Beirut were producing nudes in the beaux arts academic style… Full Review
October 9, 2019
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Anthea Callen
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018. 272 pp.; 212 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300112948)
Anthea Callen’s earlier monographs established her as a leading expert on the facture and material history of Impressionism. Her new book turns away from the physicalities of canvas weaves and palette knives, parasols and portable paint boxes, to address a very different kind of “artists’ material”—naked human bodies, dead and living—and the academies where artists were taught to represent them. The basic insight that grounds her inquiry is simple but fundamental: the pedagogical system established across the Euro-American world by the start of the nineteenth century, modeled on the Florentine Accademia del Disegno and Roman Accademia di San Luca… Full Review
October 8, 2019
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Tijana Vujošević
Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2019. 208 pp.; 72 b/w ills. Paper £20.00 (9781526114884)
Soviet architectural modernism is characterized sometimes as unrealizably utopian, and other times as an expanse of drab housing blocks that failed to take account of their human users. Tijana Vujošević begins Modernism and the Making of the Soviet New Man by noting that neither view is exactly true, and further that the truth was, at least arguably, precisely the opposite of both: a radical transformation of the built environment was in fact realized in the first decades of the Soviet Union, and the most extraordinary aspect of early Soviet design was its attention to how its human inhabitants would themselves… Full Review
October 2, 2019
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Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford, and Rebecca Zorach, eds.
Second to None: Chicago Stories. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017. 376 pp. Paper $35.00 (9780810135932)
In the summer of 1967, as the first national conference on Black Power convened in Newark, New Jersey, and the city of Chicago awaited the unveiling of a monumental sculpture by Picasso in the Chicago Loop, a group of artists—painters, photographers, and graphic designers affiliated with the recently formed Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC)—created a mural on Chicago’s South Side, at the corner of Forty-Third and Langley. The mural, which was unveiled in late August, featured images of prominent African Americans grouped into a variety of professional categories: statesmen, religious leaders, rhythm and blues musicians, jazz musicians… Full Review
September 30, 2019
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Stephanie Schrader, ed.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. 160 pp.; 138 color ills. Cloth $39.95 (9781606065525)
Getty Center, Los Angeles, March 13–June 24, 2018
Imagine an art history of either South Asia or Europe where Bichitr (active circa 1615–50) and Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606–69) share the same discursive space. The cover of Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India provokes us to envision precisely that: an art history where a painting and a drawing of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan by two contemporaneous artists—one from South Asia and the other from Europe—can coevally reside alongside each other. In a way, the cover functions as an introduction to the larger art historical intervention that the exhibition catalog aims to perform: namely, investigating questions of equivalence… Full Review
September 27, 2019
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Celeste-Marie Bernier
Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. 344 pp.; 99 color ills. Cloth $85.00 (9780520286535)
This welcome new volume surveys some fifty diaspora artists working in the United States and United Kingdom and more than 150 of their works. It elaborates the author’s larger project of developing a critical bibliography that alights on both contexts and, in so doing, seeks to articulate a working “Black lexicon of liberation,” primarily by drawing on the words of (and well-chosen objects by) the artists in question. In this sense, Stick to the Skin occupies a place somewhere between textbook and sourcebook. Indeed, rather than seeking to have the final word on contemporary diaspora art, Celeste-Marie Bernier openly posits… Full Review
September 25, 2019
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Alpesh Kantilal Patel
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2017. 272 pp. Cloth £80.00 (9781784992545)
Rethinking Art’s Histories, the Manchester University Press publication series launched in 2010, carries a substantial catalog of unconventional and experimental scholarship that breaks away from period- and geography-centered approaches to art history. Alpesh Kantilal Patel’s Productive Failure: Writing Queer Transnational South Asian Art Histories is a valuable contribution to this growing body of literature that attempts to expand the parameters of art history and its constituent subfields, employing “affirmative criticality” and “productive failure” as methods to produce a more ethical, entangled, and transparent practice of writing (art) history. The title of the book provides a sense of this messier, expanded… Full Review
September 24, 2019
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