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

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Peter Geimer
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. 288 pp.; 18 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (9780226471877)
Several years ago, an Egyptian fly who died in 1870 was belatedly elegized in the pages of a prominent cultural studies journal. This poor airborne creature had lost its way, navigating into the camera of Antonio Beato and careening into the sticky collodion that coated the photographer’s glass plate negative. The fly’s treacly end would secure its immortality, for when the image was printed, the carcass loomed monstrously large over the citadel that was Beato’s putative subject. Occupying... Full Review
January 9, 2019
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Peggy McCracken
University of Chicago Press, 2017. 240 pp.; 16 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226458922)
Peggy McCracken’s new book is about power. Although the burgeoning field of human-animal studies has been dominated by literary historians like herself, McCracken’s approach is refreshingly interdisciplinary and opens the door to new ways in which scholars in other disciplines might enter this increasingly important discourse.In her introduction, McCracken’s thesis is crystal clear: “literary texts use human-animal encounters to explore the legitimacy of authority and dominion over... Full Review
December 21, 2018
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Shari Tishman
London: Routledge, 2017. 156 pp.; 22 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9781138240414)
Shari Tishman’s Slow Looking: The Art and Practice of Learning Through Observation is a book that covers the whole field of education, beginning with children in primary school to adults visiting museums. Though I intend to discuss the entire scope of the book here, my primary concern is how its thesis applies to people, of any age, when they look at art in museums. My first thought when asked to review the book was that the concept of “slow looking” is appealing, but is it... Full Review
December 19, 2018
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Caroline A. Jones
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 400 pp.; 37 color ills.; 128 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780226291741)
What does it mean to say that an artwork is “global” or “contemporary”? Such claims, which are often both implicit and based on unreflective judgments, are nothing less than a condition of possibility for virtually any kind of discourse or practice related to contemporary art. Yet despite the ubiquity or even the necessity of “the global” and “the contemporary,” it is by no means clear how these terms function rhetorically; it isn’t even clear that they refer to determinate concepts or... Full Review
December 11, 2018
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Andrea E. Frohne
New York State Series. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2015. 435 pp.; 12 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Paperback $49.95 (9780815634300)
The mutual imbrications of race, space, and visuality that are a shared preoccupation of art history, cultural studies, critical theory, media studies, and anthropology come into disturbingly vivid relief in the story of the colonial-era cemetery whose long-buried past and recent transformation into the first national monument to memorialize US slavery form the subjects of Andrea Frohne’s fascinating book, The African Burial Ground in New York City: Memory, Spirituality, and Space.... Full Review
December 10, 2018
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Marian Bleeke
Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2017. 216 pp.; 4 color ills.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $99.00 (9781783272501)
In Motherhood and Meaning in Medieval Sculpture: Representations from France, c. 1100–1500, Marian Bleeke’s goal is to explore what medieval sculptures “have to say about medieval women’s experiences of motherhood” (1). She asserts that “these sculptures become sites where medieval women could consider their own maternal experiences and the meanings those experiences held for them” (3). In this study, the author makes a powerful case for exploring the potential experiences... Full Review
December 7, 2018
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Diana Bullen Presciutti
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. New York: Routledge, 2015. 284 pp.; 8 color ills.; 115 b/w ills. Hardcover $112.00 (9781472457653)
Diana Bullen Presciutti’s Visual Cultures of Foundling Care in Renaissance Italy is a sharply focused look at the figurative imagery deployed by hospitals caring for orphaned and abandoned children. Hospitals in Renaissance Italy have long been a subject of research: John Henderson’s The Renaissance Hospital: Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (2006) is a recent example of broad treatment, and Il mercante, l’ospedale, i fanciulli: La donazione di Francesco Datini, Santa... Full Review
December 6, 2018
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Sonal Khullar
Oakland: University of California Press, 2015. 368 pp.; 84 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780520283671)
In her innovative and elegant book, Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, Sonal Khullar reconstitutes the history of modernism in India as nimble artistic negotiations between present and past, East and West, crafts and fine arts, and individual and nation. Through Edward Said’s notion of “affiliation,” she pushes the history of art worlds beyond the bounds of the nation-state, education, or media to revive “the worldly... Full Review
December 4, 2018
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Nnamdi Elleh
New York: Routledge, 2017. 350 pp.; 214 b/w ills. Hardcover $165.00 (9781472465290)
Abuja, Nigeria—the capital city of Africa’s most populous nation—was master planned from the ground up in the last forty years in the shadow of a gigantic rock outcrop (Aso Rock) near the geographic center of the country. Other than these scant details, few in or outside of Nigeria know much else about what is one of the continent’s most powerful cities. Nnamdi Elleh has begun to address this long-overlooked space, in this work on the city’s architecture. The result is a... Full Review
December 3, 2018
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James E. Young
Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2018. 256 pp.; 115 color ills. $29.95 (9781625343611)
Over the past thirty years, James E. Young, who recently retired from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has studied and written on modern memorial art, most notably that devoted to the Holocaust. For much of his career, he held a joint appointment in English and Judaic studies at that university, and also served as the founding director of its Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Over this time, Young has become a significant scholar in each of these fields. In... Full Review
November 30, 2018
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