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

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Juliet B. Wiersema
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015. 224 pp.; 185 color ills.; 17 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780292761254)
Juliet B. Wiersema’s Architectural Vessels of the Moche: Ceramic Diagrams of Sacred Space in Ancient Peru is a significant contribution to the field of art history for two reasons. The first is the subject matter: she addresses the relationship between architecture and its representation through an examination and comparison of ceramic vessels that represent architectural spaces and archaeologically recovered architectural remains from the Moche culture of the Peruvian north coast (ca.... Full Review
December 21, 2016
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Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin, eds.
Exh. cat. Los Angeles: Hauser Wirth and Schimmel in association with Skira Rizzoli, 2016. 256 pp.; 150 color ills. Cloth $55.00 (9788857231303)
Exhibition schedule: Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, Los Angeles, March 13–September 4, 2016
Co-curated by Paul Schimmel, former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and partner and vice president at Hauser and Wirth; and Jenni Sorkin, art historian, critic, and assistant professor of contemporary art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016 felt like an ambitious museum exhibition, especially with its impressive roster of thirty-four artists working across so much of the... Full Review
December 20, 2016
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Brooklyn Museum, 2015.
Exhibition schedule: Brooklyn Museum, New York, May 1–November 8, 2015
A powerful signifier of knowledge and collective memory in Western modernity, the archive has been a topic of much interest in art history and cultural studies. The scholarship of the last few decades—from Michel Foucault’s to Hal Foster’s—has exposed its artifice, indeterminacy, and historical role in the formation and operation of power structures. What is more, despite the fact that the photograph’s claim of veracity has been seriously challenged by the visual culture of the late twentieth... Full Review
December 15, 2016
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Helen Molesworth, ed.
Exh. cat. Boston: Institute for Contemporary Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 400 pp.; 318 color ills.; 170 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300211917)
Exhibition schedule: Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston, October 10, 2015–January 24, 2016; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 21–May 15, 2016; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, September 17, 2016–January 1, 2017
That Anni Albers’s modestly sized weaving Free-Hanging Room Divider (1949) is one of the larger objects in Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 is a testament to the spare conditions under which the artists at Black Mountain College worked. An island of progressivism in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Black Mountain was a small school that staged a grand experiment in collectivism and experiential education. Students and faculty lived together; art practice was at... Full Review
December 14, 2016
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Fram Kitagawa
Exh. cat. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015. 304 pp.; 354 color ills.; 2 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9781616894245)
Exhibition schedule: Nīgata, Japan, July 26–September 13, 2015
In 1999, when a former student activist of the 1960s, Fram Kitagawa, proposed an idea for revitalizing the southern areas of Japan’s Nīgata Prefecture with contemporary art, its six municipalities unanimously declined. But Kitagawa insisted that art could help build a community to reinvigorate the desolate agrarian region and reverse the damage done by the government’s ferocious urbanization. After more than two thousand meetings with local communities, the effort crystallized in the first... Full Review
December 14, 2016
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Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Frick Collection and Yale University Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 278 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300212051)
Exhibition schedule: Frick Collection, New York, March 2–June 5, 2016
Assembled from roughly forty different public and private collections, the exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture, curated by Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker, brought together more than one hundred paintings, drawings, and prints by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) and his contemporaries. Perhaps not coincidentally, the exhibition appeared exactly twenty-five years after another landmark Van Dyck show in New York—Christopher Brown’s groundbreaking The Drawings of Anthony van... Full Review
December 9, 2016
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Erik Thunø
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 325 pp.; 25 color ills.; 104 b/w ills. Cloth $110.00 (9781107069909)
Erik Thunø’s The Apse Mosaic in Early Medieval Rome: Time, Network, and Repetition presents an alternative “non-diachronic” art-historical interpretation of Roman apse decoration from the sixth through ninth centuries. He identifies a core set of examples that share key visual and textual features, including: SS. Cosmas and Damian (526–30); S. Agnese (625–38); S. Venanzio (640–42); the apses of Paschal I (817–24)—S. Prassede, S. Cecelia, S. Maria in Domnica; and S. Marco (827–44).... Full Review
December 8, 2016
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Marta Gutman
Historical Studies of Urban America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 448 pp.; 12 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780226311289)
The current obsessive fixation on children, childhood, and parenting has relegated the notion of “other people’s children” to a position of indifference and even mild disdain on the part of many middle- and upper-middle-class citizens. Yet the history of philanthropy and the preoccupation with the care of poor children was a central purpose of wealthy and middle-class women for a century and a half. In her book A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of... Full Review
December 8, 2016
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Jeffrey Chipps Smith, ed.
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 244 pp.; 59 b/w ills. Cloth $104.95 (9781472435873)
Blind spots help define a period eye. That is, what one period seems to lack is precisely what distinguishes its conventions from those of other periods. Yet the blind spots are unstable. Given that examining textual documentation of a period for its conventional visual terms remains central to art-historical practice, such documents require interpretation and reinterpretation. Even the most self-conscious or straightforward document writers, announcing their own biases, are unaware of all... Full Review
December 7, 2016
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Lowery Stokes Sims, ed.
Exh. cat. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2015. 256 pp.; 145 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780878468157)
In 2015, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, produced a large, handsome catalogue featuring approximately one hundred works by African American artists from its permanent collection, all of which were acquired over the past four decades. Three factors had a significant impact in amassing this art. Since 1969, Edmund Barry Gaither, curator and director of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Boston, has also served as a curator and consultant to the MFA. In 2005, the MFA... Full Review
December 1, 2016
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