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

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Jeffrey Weiss, Daniel Buren, and Whitney Davis
Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2015. 264 pp.; 436 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780892075195)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 6–May 3, 2015
I first saw On Kawara’s work in person in 1998 at the retrospective exhibition Whole and Parts 1964–1995 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. At the time I was a graduate student in that city, and my memory of the show is marked by the architecture of the museum, with its rectangular spaces and high ceilings, where each of his bodies of work was assigned a separate space, objectivizing them and creating a sense of preciousness. Overall, the symmetric configuration of the... Full Review
February 1, 2018
Danielle B. Joyner
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 256 pp.; 36 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Hardcover $89.95 (9780271070889)
In Painting the Hortus Deliciarum: Medieval Women, Wisdom, and Time, Danielle B. Joyner has tackled one of the most challenging topics in Romanesque studies, the illuminated manuscript compilation known as the “Garden of Delights.” Created ca. 1175–85 by Abbess Herrad for the Augustinian convent of Saint Odile at Hohenberg in Alsace, and destroyed in the bombardment of Strasbourg in 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, this highly important Romanesque work survives only in... Full Review
January 31, 2018
Eric M. Ramírez-Weaver
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017. 296 pp.; 35 color ills.; 82  b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271071268)
Charlemagne’s biographer, Einhard, as well as one of his key courtiers, Alcuin, flattered the ruler with praise for his interest, indeed expertise, in science generally and astronomy in particular. In 809 CE a group of computistic scholars, apparently under the leadership of Adalhard of Corbie, gathered at Aachen and produced a handbook containing both texts and images that were intended to be helpful in understanding the calendar and, on the basis of that knowledge, of properly arranging... Full Review
January 31, 2018
Celeste-Marie Bernier
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015. 552 pp.; 32 color ills.; 35 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (9781439912737)
In Suffering and Sunset: World War I in the Art and Life of Horace Pippin, Celeste-Marie Bernier has written an intellectual and cultural biography of the artist. Her study is a deeply researched, archival-focused examination of the ways in which war, military service, race, identity, and art making were inextricably bound together for Horace Pippin (1888–1946). Suffering and Sunset is also polemical, challenging white-dominated archival and historical structures and official... Full Review
January 30, 2018
Virginia M. Fields, John M. D. Pohl, and Victoria I. Lyall
Exh. cat. 2014. 256 pp.; 240 ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781857597417)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, April 1, 2012–July 1, 2012.
In recent decades, American and European museums have mounted major exhibitions highlighting individual Mesoamerican cultures, notably the Olmec, the Maya, and the Aztecs. Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico has a different focus. Using the culture hero Quetzalcoatl as its pivot, the exhibition and accompanying book investigate cultural and artistic traditions across Mesoamerica, and even beyond, during the period immediately preceding the... Full Review
January 30, 2018
Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne, eds.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 464 pp.; 206 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780691167282)
The heft of this volume and the comeliness of its jacket forecast the import and “handsome elegance” (334) of its contents. Richly illustrated, meticulously edited, and exquisitely produced, the object itself fuses ornament with substance in a kind of metonymic representation of its main argument. This work consists of twenty-six contributions grouped into seven sections, of which four reflect chronological groupings of medieval, early-modern, modern, and contemporary topics, while the... Full Review
January 29, 2018
Keller Easterling
New York: Verso Books, 2014. 252 pp. Paperback $13.96 (9781784783648)
Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space is a palimpsest of a book. It is rich with stories of intricate entanglements among capital, space, and politics; it provides a probing analysis focused on how this evidence allows for a new understanding of how the world operates. And it claims a role, albeit somewhat vaguely, for the agency of designers and others in crafting counter-narratives and insurgent practices.Easterling’s strength is in her... Full Review
January 29, 2018
Éric Alliez
Trans. Robin Mackay. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2015. 472 pp. Paperback $49.00 (9781783480685)
Philosophically inflected histories of modern painting take many forms. French phenomenology shapes one of the richest and most deeply ingrained of these. Éric Alliez’s The Brain-Eye offers an alternative to this standard way of charting European painting from roughly 1825 to 1900. His account is alternative in that it shifts emphasis decidedly away from what has become comme il faut in such philosophical studies, i.e., approaches that give pride of place to “impressionism”... Full Review
January 26, 2018
Joseph Conrad and Fiona Banner
Four Corners Familiars. London: Four Corners Books, 2016. 312 pp.; 22 color ills.; 134 b/w ills. Paperback $35.00 (9781909829053)
On Fiona Banner’s website, her publication Heart of Darkness is referred to as a magazine. On the publisher’s website it is referred to as a book in magazine format. Straddling these two categories, Heart of Darkness embodies multiple dualities and contrasting conditions, in line with the body of work Banner has been developing over the past two decades. The publication is part of Four Corners Books’ series Familiars, which pairs a classic novel with a contemporary... Full Review
January 25, 2018
Hubert Damisch
Ed. Anthony Vidler. Writing Architecture. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2016. 392 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Paperback $30.95 (9780262528580)
Noting the manner in which Leon Battista Alberti treated the column in his architecture, French philosopher Hubert Damisch commented on its ambiguity: at times structural element, at times a nonstructural, expressive point of punctuation. If there is one motif recurrently embedded in Damisch’s writings on architecture, it is the column and its potent identity as a fixture of ambiguity and multiple meanings. The column is rendered structurally elemental, as it is conceptually, and presents... Full Review
January 24, 2018