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

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Maurice Berger
Exh. cat. New York and New Haven: Jewish Museum and Yale University Press, 2015. 172 pp.; 66 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Paper $45.00 (9780300207934)
Exhibition schedule: Jewish Museum, New York, May 1–September 27, 2015; Nova Southeastern University Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, October 24, 2015–January 10, 2016; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, April 9–July 31, 2016; Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore, October 20, 2016–January 8, 2017; Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, February 16–June 11, 2017
The exhibition Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television offered objects and images meant to rise above the proverbial ambient static of TV—here figured literally as a wallpaper background—in an effort to argue for the formative influence of avant-garde art on the medium’s look and content in its early years. To be sure, the selections of television clips, furniture, artwork, and ephemera beguile and entertain, introducing young visitors to a bygone age of... Full Review
November 3, 2016
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Seth Price
New York: Leopard, 2015. 122 pp. Paper $20.00 (9780981546834)
Visual artist Seth Price’s Fuck Seth Price declares itself a novel. It claims this clearly on the cover: A Novel—with a capital “N.” While Fuck Seth Price is the artist’s fourth book, it is his first self-declared novel, though its qualifications to this identity begin to disintegrate even before one flips open the small volume’s die-cut cover. What readers find in the relatively short span of the book’s 122 pages is not a novel in any recognizable sense (though it makes... Full Review
November 2, 2016
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Andrew Bolton
Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. 256 pp.; 231 color ills. Paper $45.00 (9780300211122)
Exhibition schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 7–September 7, 2015
China: Through the Looking Glass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exploration of how Chinese dress and aesthetics have influenced the Western fashion world, has been a popular success: with visitor numbers topping 800,000, it has entered the top five of the Met’s most successful exhibitions, beating another recent and immensely popular fashion exhibition also curated by Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, and proving yet again that fashion in the museum sells. But... Full Review
November 2, 2016
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Julia I. Miller and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2015. 264 pp.; 34 color ills.; 47 b/w ills. Cloth $74.95 (9780271065038)
Julia I. Miller and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell’s From Giotto to Botticelli: The Artistic Patronage of the Humiliati in Florence, a long-awaited study on art related to the Humiliati (“humbled ones”), provides a fresh approach to examining the patronage of religious orders. Originating in the eleventh century near Milan, the Humiliati were officially recognized by Pope Innocent III in 1201 and the male branch suppressed in 1571, following the failed assassination of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo... Full Review
October 28, 2016
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Ruth E. Iskin
Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2014. 408 pp.; 48 color ills.; 188 b/w ills. Paper $50.00 (9781611686173)
Posters have long occupied a paradoxical position in the history of nineteenth-century art. Despite their appearance at the center of many exhibitions and textbook studies of the period, posters remain mostly peripheral to art history’s disciplinary foci. Ruth Iskin’s The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s–1900s offers an important antidote to the exclusion of posters from substantive art-historical analysis. As her title asserts, “the poster” merits new... Full Review
October 28, 2016
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Taryn Simon
Exh. cat. New York and Berlin: Gagosian Gallery and Hatje Cantz, 2016. 208 pp.; 1,006 color ills. Cloth $100.00 (9783775741576)
Exhibition schedule: Gagosian Gallery, New York, February 18–March 26, 2016
Taryn Simon’s bibliography for Paperwork and the Will of Capital includes an 1816 volume by Scottish horticulturalist George Sinclair. His Hortus gramineus Woburnensis catalogues the results of soil and planting experiments conducted to enhance the performance and nutritive value of various types of grass cultivated for animal fodder. Plant communities composed of diverse species, Sinclair found, produce a greater yield than less species-rich plots. The implications of this... Full Review
October 26, 2016
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Anthea Callen
London: Reaktion, 2015. 336 pp.; 143 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9781780233550)
Anthea Callen, a foremost expert on the materials of French painting, makes one of her core arguments at the end of this important book: “Painting is a craft and a science as well as an art” (266). In addition to craft and science, the book’s emphasis falls—emphatically—upon art as labor (the work of art), and it therefore closely examines the character and connotations of the visible painted mark. She views it as the index of an artist’s working methods and tools, but also the... Full Review
October 26, 2016
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Mara Ambrožič and Simon Njami, eds.
Exh. cat. Berlin, Frankfurt, and Washington, DC: Kerber in association with Museum für Moderne Kunst and National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2015. 376 pp.; 212 color ills. Cloth $85.00 (9783866789319)
Exhibition schedule: Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, March 21–July 27, 2014; Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, October 16, 2004–January 25, 2015; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, April 8–November 1, 2015
Simon Njami remains a consistent voice in defining and elucidating twenty-first-century art created by African artists. The exhibitions he curates provide insights espoused by art practitioners of African descent with new interpretive criteria. Njami furthers this aim in his latest collaboration with Mara Ambrožič: The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. This mammoth project is composed of three exhibitions, each dedicated to a realm of... Full Review
October 21, 2016
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Erin E. Benay and Lisa M. Rafanelli
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. Burlington: Ashgate, 2015. 304 pp.; 6 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $107.96 (9781472444738)
At first, the Noli me tangere and Doubting Thomas episodes may appear to be a rather curious pairing as the subject of a book. These two religious narratives are often represented separately and usually have been discussed as distinct topics throughout much of the history of Western art. They are not typically thought of as forming a unit. However, as co-authors Erin E. Benay and Lisa M. Rafanelli reveal, these two events are related. Central to both stories is the resurrected body of... Full Review
October 20, 2016
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Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan, eds.
Exh. cat. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2015. 352 pp.; 230 color ills.; 115 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (9781935963080)
Exhibition schedule: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, April 11–August 29, 2015; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, October 11, 2015–January 17, 2016; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, February 18, 2016–May 15, 2016
Organized by the Walker Art Center, International Pop is an ambitious show that aims to rethink the canonical narratives of one of the most recognizable artistic styles of the twentieth century. Structured around five national and five thematic galleries, it attempts to overturn the idea of Pop as a primarily American and British movement by redefining it as a fluid sensibility with an international reach and relevance. While the exhibition catalogue includes an impressively detailed... Full Review
October 20, 2016
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