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

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Alexandra Schwartz
Exh. cat. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015. 176 pp.; Many color ills. Cloth $44.95 (9780520282889)
Exhibition schedule: Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, February 8–May 17, 2015; Telfair Museums, Savannah, June 12–September 20, 2015; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, October 16, 2015–January 31, 2016; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, February 21–May 15, 2016
In asking how best to characterize and periodize the 1990s, Philip Wegner proposes the “counterintuitive asymmetry” of beginning the decade with the fall of the Berlin wall, an event “which is in fact an ending,” and ending with 9/11, an event which he positions as “the opening of the true post-Cold War global situation” (Life Between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties, Durham: Duke University Press, 2009: 28). The “long 1990s” (1989–2001), Wegner surmises, was a... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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H. Ike Okafor-Newsum (Horace Newsum)
Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016. 226 pp.; 137 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781628462258)
What is Neo-Ancestralism? The phrase invokes heritage and cultural memory, but it also hints at a romanticization of the past. Demetrius L. Eudell tackles this concern in his foreword to SoulStirrers: Black Art and the Neo-Ancestral Impulse, arguing that the turn to the past of the artists documented in the book does not reflect the desire for an impossible return, but rather an interest in the “dynamic invention of new cultural forms” that have emerged from Africa by way of the... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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Joanne Pillsbury, Patricia Joan Sarro, James Doyle, and Juliet Wiersema
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2015. 100 pp.; 87 color ills. Paper $25.00 (9781588395764)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 26, 2015–September 18, 2016
Because of its large size relative to a human body, a building can only be known from partial encounters: the view of a particular facade, the transition from exterior to interior when crossing the threshold, the sensation of being inside one of many rooms. The mind must assemble these fragments into a multidimensional panorama to understand the structure as a whole. Even so, aspects remain unknown: the appearance of the roof from above, the thickness of a wall, the view from a clerestory... Full Review
September 28, 2017
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Joseph Leo Koerner
Bollingen Series XXXV: 57. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 448 pp.; 275 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691172286)
Joseph Leo Koerner is a verbal virtuoso, a master of alluring alliteration. Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life is spangled with melodious word combinations like “devil dangles,” “seeming secrets,” “farthest fringe,” “hellish hill,” “sylph-like soul,” “shunning the sun,” “spiders spin,” and “rafters of the ruined hut.” Indeed, the title, with its catchy pairings of Bosch and Bruegel, enemy and everyday, already employs this stylistic device, signaling the... Full Review
September 27, 2017
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Sarah Robinson and Juhani Pallasmaa, eds.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 264 pp.; 47 color ills.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $34.95 (9780262028875)
In 2015 a book of edited conference papers appeared that could have a widespread and profound impact on both architectural practice and education. Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design is a persuasive introduction to research in brain science and its application to environmental design that stems from the founding of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (AANFA) in 2003, an outgrowth of the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Mark Mussari
New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. 193 pp.; 33 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781474223720)
Hygge is hot. According to the New York Times (December 24, 2016) and the Guardian (October 18, November 22, December 16, 2016), the Danish concept, which translates roughly to coziness, is the lifestyle trend of the moment. Hygge is so popular that it made the Oxford Dictionary’s shortlist for 2016 “word of the year.” A number of recent books outline the concept, explain its history, and instruct on how to develop it in your own home. Hygge-dedicated... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Carolyn E. Tate
The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and the Culture of the Western Hemisphere. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. 359 pp.; 268 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780292728523)
In Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture, Carolyn E. Tate eschews the well-trodden path of the iconography of rulership to reveal the central role of the unborn, women, gestation, birth, and regeneration in the art and ideation of the Formative-period peoples of Mesoamerica. Based on this imagery, specifically its fidelity to embryo and fetus representations, she argues that empirical observation played a prominent role in Formative-period epistemologies of gender and creation. While... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Sol Henaro, Mónica Mayer, Karen Cordero, Griselda Pollock, and et. al.
Exh. cat. Mexico City and Barcelona: MUAC-UNAM, Alumnos 47 and Editorial RM and RM Verlag, 2016. 272 pp. Paper Mex$ 300.00 (9786070251757)
Exhibition schedule: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City February 6, 2015—July 31, 2016
It is rare when a retrospective exhibition centers on collective artistic production rather than the traditional focus on a singular (and most frequently male) artist. Si tiene dudas . . . pregunte: Una exposición retrocolectiva de Mónica Mayer / When in Doubt . . . Ask: A Retrocollective of Mónica Mayer, held at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City, successfully worked to highlight a pioneering figure in feminist art practice in Mexico while it... Full Review
September 20, 2017
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Frances Gage
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 248 pp.; 48 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271071039)
Frances Gage’s Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome: Giulio Mancini and the Efficacy of Art investigates the medical rationales for collecting art that are scattered throughout a well-known treatise by Giulio Mancini (1559–1630), Pope Urban VIII’s physician. Mancini’s medical thought was retardataire in the era of the Lincei, but his artistic connoisseurship was innovative. Thanks to Gage’s book, Mancini can now be appreciated for adding painters to Sandra Cavallo’s categories of... Full Review
September 15, 2017
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Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang, eds.
Blackwell Companions to Art History. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. 584 pp.; 86 b/w ills. Cloth $195.00 (9781444339130)
Meant to serve as a pedagogical tool to “stimulate comparative contemplation about broad and basic issues in the history of art” (1), A Companion to Chinese Art, edited by Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang, is a collection of twenty-five essays by some of the leading scholars of Chinese art history, history, and literature. It adopts a thematic structure, devoting five essays to each of five general topics commonly taught within art-historical surveys—production and... Full Review
September 15, 2017
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