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

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Diana Rodríguez Pérez, ed.
London: Routledge, 2020. 306 pp. Paper $48.95 (9780367595081)
A critical study of the contexts of artifacts requires a solid awareness of the methodologies available to investigate a wider network of relationships, as the Italian art historian Giovanni Previtali showed (G. Previtali, “Alcune opere ‘fuori contesto’: Il caso di Marco Romano,” Bollettino d’arte, 6th ser., 22, 1983, 43–68). This need is even more relevant today as researchers can now use a wider range of techniques to work on contexts, such as the many possible forms of archaeometric analysis, which require a firm methodological command by scholars in the humanities.  Important reflections on working on contexts with reference to… Full Review
December 2, 2021
Bryan C. Keene and Karl Whittington, eds.
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2020. 320 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth €115.00 (9782503586182)
This volume of papers from the Andrew Ladis Trecento Conference held in 2018 attempts to relocate the study of Italian art, 1300–1400, a field historically dominated by attribution and connoisseurship, into new art historical methodologies and critical methods. The editors identify some of these as the study of gender, reception of art by diverse audiences, and interrelationships between artistic imagery, sermons, and vernacular texts; they also discuss the exploration of abstract concepts like time or knowledge, theoretical approaches to pictorial space, and a shift in scholarly attention to the later trecento. For this reviewer, the most innovative papers address the… Full Review
November 30, 2021
Kristen Seaman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 206 pp.; 8 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $99.99 (9781108490917)
“Why did some notable examples of Hellenistic Art look so different from previous Greek art? And why did some key elements of Hellenistic art and literature appear so similar?” (xi). Kristin Seaman’s work is built and developed around these essential questions of differences across time and similarities between media. By recognizing the central role of rhetorical education in Greek society, the author emphasizes the close association between innovative visual production and textual culture in the Hellenistic courts. Within this context, the practice of progymnasmata held a distinctive position. The composition and delivery of orations appears to have been incorporated into… Full Review
November 10, 2021
Sarah Thomas
London and New Haven: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2019. 304 pp.; 168 ills. (9781913107055)
John Simpson’s The Captive Slave (1827, Art Institute of Chicago) graces the cover of Witnessing Slavery: Art and Travel in the Age of Abolition, a compelling book that examines eyewitness accounts of slavery largely produced by British artists during the seventy-year period between 1770 and 1840. Although a poignant and absorbing image, Simpson’s painting is one of the few works in the book that is not an eyewitness account, but instead a formal portrait of an anonymous slave said to have been modeled by Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage. This paradox… Full Review
November 4, 2021
Hanneke Grootenboer
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020. 240 pp.; 16 color ills.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (9780226717951)
Thinking is something we get to enjoy alone, and yet, as Hanneke Grootenboer shows in The Pensive Image: Art as a Form of Thinking, it is also collective. Grootenboer’s own thinking builds on foundations laid by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Gaston Bachelard, and Jacques Rancière, as well as by artists, from painters to filmmakers. More unruly and less policed than the discipline of philosophy proper, it belongs to that praxis we know as “theory.” For thinking along with art, Grootenboer demonstrates, discrete ideas, pensées, or Denkbilder, whose compactness already begins to… Full Review
October 20, 2021
J. P. Park, Burglind Jungmann, and Juhyung Rhi, eds.
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020. 568 pp. Ebook $156.00 (9781118927007)
Twenty years after Jane Portal’s introductory survey Korea: Art and Archaeology (Thames and Hudson, 2000), this long-awaited edited volume offers a chance to review the historiography of Korean art history and to see the astonishing developments the field has made over the past number of years. In general, the volume covers cross-cultural connections that deemphasize ahistorical national narratives and illustrate the increasing depth of research on modern and contemporary art. Leading scholars in Korean art provide insightful essays with a preference for historical and social contexts over stylistic analysis. Donald L. Baker’s introduction provides an excellent historical overview. It is… Full Review
October 6, 2021
Emily Hage
New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021. 256 pp.; 10 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9781501342660)
Emily Hage’s well-written and lucidly argued book is a valuable contribution to the Dada scholarship. It is not the first study to emphasize the centrality of journals to the Dada movement—Dawn Ades’s pioneering exhibition catalog Dada and Surrealism Reviewed of 1978 did that, as did her Dada Reader, coedited with Hage in 2006. But whereas those volumes (along with the chapters devoted to Dada in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, vol. 3, 2013) function as surveys and as essential reference resources, Hage’s book offers something different. It provides an introduction, a cohesive narrative, and… Full Review
September 30, 2021
Joshua I. Cohen
Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 83 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520309685)
I winced the first time I read the title of this book. The cause of my trepidation was the quotation marks that enshrined “Black Art.” As a Black queer woman artist who is invested in the representation of Otherness in visual art, the symbols were striking in their evocation because, for me, they immediately raised several questions related to authenticity, aesthetics, and identity. However, my reservations lessened as I read the introductory pages and recognized the exhaustive care and attention that the author devoted to understanding the role canonical African sculpture played in the rise of modernisms in the… Full Review
September 28, 2021
William O. Gardner
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020. 232 pp.; 16 color ills.; 4 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (9781517906245)
After a long delay, Japan hosted its second Tokyo Olympics this summer (without an audience, due to the pandemic). When the Olympics were postponed last summer, Netflix premiered a dystopian anime series directed by Yuasa Masaaki, Japan Sinks 2020, a contemporary adaptation of Komatsu Sakyō’s 1973 novel of the same title. The series begins with a massive earthquake destroying Tokyo, including the newly built Olympic stadium and young athletes within. Komatsu’s earlier novel Virus: The Day of Resurrection (Fukkatsu no hi), published in 1964—the year of the first Tokyo Olympics—has also been referenced for eerily predicting a… Full Review
September 23, 2021
Michel Draguet
Brussels and New Haven, CT: Mercatorfonds in association with Yale University Press, 2020. 304 pp.; 210 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780300246506)
The work of Fernand Khnopff as one of Belgium’s foremost symbolist artists is increasingly attracting scholarly attention. It is no coincidence that in the past few years interesting exhibitions have been dedicated to Belgian symbolism and Fernand Khnopff, such as Dekadenz und Dunkle Träume: Der belgische Symbolismus at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2020–21) and Fernand Khnopff: Le maître de l’énigme (1858–1921) at the Petit Palais in Paris (2018–19). One of the directors of the latter exhibition was the Khnopff specialist Michel Draguet, author of several journal articles on Belgian art that are also of particular interest for Khnopff, as… Full Review
September 14, 2021