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

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Colin McEwan and John W. Hoopes, eds.
Washington, DC and Cambridge, MA: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection and Harvard University Press, 2022. 806 pp.; 1066 color ills.; 172 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (9780884024699)
Colin McEwan and John W. Hoopes, eds.
Washington, DC and Cambridge, MA: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection and Harvard University Press, 2022. 512 pp.; 25 color ills.; 107 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780884024705)
In pre-Columbian art history, the Andes and Mesoamerica command almost all the scholarly attention. These more heavily studied geographical zones are outnumbered by the neglected ones—the Antilles, Isthmo-Colombia, and Amazonia-Orinokia, or AIAO for short. Is it simply the absence of monumental ruins, as some have suggested, that causes art historians especially to relegate these regions to the margins or is it the relative lack of archaeology on which we can rely? In fact, archaeologists have been excavating and accumulating data in these areas for well over a century and, over that period, some parts of the AIAO were not as… Full Review
December 7, 2022
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Stephen Houston, ed.
Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2021. 192 pp.; 67 color ills.; 49 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781606067444)
From the 1940s until the 1990s, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, all major and most minor archaeological sites from the Maya culture were plundered to meet the demands of the international art market. To name a few examples, Richard E. W. Adams recounts that starting in 1976 the deep jungle Maya city of Río Azul was targeted by an intense looting operation that eventually employed up to eighty diggers (Río Azul: An Ancient Maya City, 1999, 5). Von Euw and Graham recorded that in 1975, more than fifty looters trenches were dug at the site of… Full Review
November 30, 2022
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Tina M. Campt
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 232 pp.; 78 color ills.; 33 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (9780262045872)
Scholarship on the theory of the gaze explores the power dynamic within the act of looking and being looked at. The male gaze, the racist gaze, and the colonial gaze are analytical concepts that help us understand how representation is implicated in the construction of gendered and racialized hierarchies and systems of control. They also reveal how subjects resist visuality’s capture through processes of self-representation and aesthetic defiance. Tina M. Campt’s A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See offers a profound reconceptualization of the politics of visibility and spectatorship within contemporary art. The book features nine artists who work… Full Review
November 23, 2022
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Gropius Bau, Berlin, November 26, 2021–March 13, 2022
Zanele Muholi presented the full breadth of the South African artist’s work to date. Muholi’s photographic practice attends to the Black LGBTQIA+ community and addresses sexual politics, racial violence, self-affirmation, and lesser-known histories. Originating at Tate Modern, the exhibition is an international feat, curated by Tate’s Yasufumi Nakamori and Sarah Allen with Gropius Bau’s Natasha Ginwala. In a video interview, Muholi opens with the statement, “What matters most is content—who is in the picture and why are they there?” In Zanele Muholi, the curators echo the artist’s sentiment, as Muholi’s photographic and multimedia series unfold throughout Gropius Bau’s ten… Full Review
November 18, 2022
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André Dombrowski, ed.
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2021. 640 pp.; 152 b/w ills. Cloth $185.00 (9781119373896)
Author’s note: This article capitalizes the movement of Impressionism only when transcribing a quotation or with deliberate emphasis in discussing the book’s definition of the movement. In its goals to transport readers “to the moment in history when Impressionism made beholders alert and uncomfortable” (7) and to offer a springboard for future inquiries, André Dombrowski’s edited volume Companion to Impressionism succeeds. Its thirty-four essays dive into single-object studies, scrutinize critical reception, and integrate transnational examples with a diverse set of methodological tools to analyze impressionism’s imbrications of the objective and subjective, the perceptual and the sensual, in rendering a world… Full Review
November 16, 2022
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Shigeko Kubota, Mayumi Hamada, Mihoko Nishikawa, Azusa Hashimoto, and Midori Yoshimoto
Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2021. 256 pp.; 131 color ills.; 65 b/w ills. Paper ¥3410.00 (9784309291413)
Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, March 20–June 6, 2021; National Museum of Art, Osaka, June 29–September 23, 2021; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, November 13, 2021–February 23, 2022
The exhibition Viva Video! The Art and Life of Shigeko Kubota was the first large-scale survey exhibition since Kubota’s career survey at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, in 1991, and this catalog—recipient of the 2021 Ringa Art Encouragement Prize—attests to the extent that interest and research on her work has progressed. The reevaluation of women artists has been proceeding apace throughout the world. Designated the “mother of video art,” Shigeko Kubota has been a particular subject of reconsideration and was recently honored with an important focused exhibition Shigeko Kubota: Liquid Reality at the Museum of Modern… Full Review
November 9, 2022
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Joanna Pawlik
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021. 296 pp.; 48 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780520309043)
“Qui suis-je?” André Breton asks at the opening of his anti-novel Nadja (1928): Who am I? And then, a line down, whom do I haunt? It is a well-known and by now overdetermined couple of lines, which nevertheless, as much as the entire novel itself, have had a considerable impact on generations of writers, poets, and artists around the world since its publication. One deeply impacted group is explored by Joanna Pawlik in the second chapter of her book on the reception of (chiefly French) Surrealism in the United States from the 1940s onward: Beat and San Francisco writers. In… Full Review
November 4, 2022
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Rakhee Balaram
Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2021. 480 pp.; 75 color ills.; 125 b/w ills. Cloth $125.00 (9781526125163)
Rakhee Balaram’s Counterpractice: Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Art of French Feminism is a resolute rejoinder to an assumption within art history that radical feminism’s agitations of May 1968 are no longer relevant in a post #MeToo world. Despite the relatively short period covered by Counterpractice (ca. 1970–81), Balaram presents an extraordinary breadth of visual, literary, and historical material accompanied by a depth of research, significantly expanding current understanding of the myriad artists, movements, and practices in the decade after 1968 in France, with special attention to how artists were catalyzed by the philosophy of French feminist vanguards Hélène Cixous, Luce… Full Review
November 2, 2022
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Sarah Betzer
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2021. 272 pp.; 42 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $124.95 (9780271088839)
When riding Line 1 of the Paris Metro you might encounter the Louvre-Rivoli station. As you exit the train you come face-to-face with antique statuary displayed in niches along the dimly lit platform. In the shadowy commotion of mass transit you may even notice the Venus de Milo stir to life among the crowd of Parisians and tourists. This contact between ancient sculpture (in fact, copies of works housed in the Louvre that were installed in the Metro in 1968) and that quintessence of modern life—taking the subway—has rich precedents, traced by Sarah Betzer in Animating the Antique: Sculptural Encounter… Full Review
October 28, 2022
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Lucy Bradnock
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021. 240 pp.; 60 color ills.; 19 b/w ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9780300251036)
Lucy Bradnock’s No More Masterpieces: Modern Art after Artaud offers a reassessment of Artaud’s reception among artists in the United States (and particularly artists who could be grouped within the American avant-garde). Looking at the period when his work was introduced to the English-speaking world in the 1950s and tracing its circulation through informal networks and official publications, Bradnock deftly demonstrates the challenges, limitations, and opportunities of Artaud’s emergence in the United States. The result is a well-researched and highly readable reconsideration of his legacy and influence there. Artaud’s texts—often opaque and contradictory—offer fertile ground for artists, who can interpret… Full Review
October 26, 2022
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