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

Browse Recent Reviews

Ara Osterweil
Rethinking Art's Histories. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014. 304 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9780719091919)
Ara Osterweil argues in Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film that the medium operates on the spectator’s sensorium in a uniquely direct and intense way. Films can emphasize this link by depicting bodies in extreme circumstances; for instance, bodies immobilized by drugs, dead and being autopsied, or epileptic and seizing are just some of the precarious versions of corporeality that experimental filmmakers documented in the 1960s and 1970s. But within the array... Full Review
March 17, 2017
Dimitrios Pandermalis, ed.
Exh. cat. New York: Onassis Foundation, 2016. 159 pp.; 164 color ills.; 9 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (9780990614227)
Exhibition schedule: Onassis Cultural Center, New York, March 24–June 18, 2016
From first glance, it was clear that the exhibition Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus was more than an impressive collection of ancient sculpture. It was a show with a clear didactic objective: to illuminate the accomplishments of the archaeologists and conservators who had worked for forty-five years to systematically unearth and preserve the rugged ancient city of Dion. The exhibition illustrated the potential of scientific and systematic excavations, with every... Full Review
March 16, 2017
Jennifer Blessing
Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2015. 148 pp.; 135 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9780892075218)
Exhibition Schedule: Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin, July 10–August 30, 2015; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, November 20, 2015–March 23, 2016
“How many minutes would you invest in looking at a particularly striking photograph?” I asked this of my History of Photography students last year, and the response came not in minutes but in seconds. They largely used Instagram as their default experience: “six seconds” answered one of the more thoughtful students. “No,” argued another, “maybe three seconds, if it’s attached to text on a blog.” Thus the understandable motivation of undertaking an exhibition like Photo-Poetics: An... Full Review
March 15, 2017
Peter Cooke
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 288 pp.; 50 color ills.; 100 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (9780300204339)
In Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality, and Symbolism, Peter Cooke explores the artist’s work from its beginnings in the early 1850s to the final ambitious projects of the late 1890s. He examines Moreau’s lifelong endeavor to revitalize le grand art in France—history painting in its most ambitious form—and to combat the endemic materialism of the age with a spiritual and moral type of painting. In the 1840s, Moreau studied under François-Édouard Picot and was enrolled... Full Review
March 15, 2017
Melissa Dabakis
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 304 pp.; 100 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780271062204)
“I wouldn’t live anywhere else but Rome,” gushed Harriet Hosmer in a letter in 1854. “I can learn more and do more here, in one year, than I could in America in ten” (35). Hosmer was among a few dozen American women sculptors who sought training in Rome during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the subject of Melissa Dabakis’s A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome. The project offers a new contribution to the study of American artists working... Full Review
March 9, 2017
Jennifer P. Kingsley
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2014. 228 pp.; 18 color ills.; 34 b/w ills. Cloth $79.95 (9780271060798)
With The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory, and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany, Jennifer P. Kingsley has made a valuable contribution to English-language scholarship on Ottonian art history. Her immediate focus is an illuminated Gospel book made at the beginning of the eleventh century for the eminent bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (r. 993–1022). The manuscript (Hildesheim, Dom- und Diözesanmuseum, Domschatz 18 [Bernward Gospels]) is illustrated with twenty-four miniatures featuring New... Full Review
March 8, 2017
Karina H. Corrigan, Jan van Campen, Femke Diercks, and Janet C. Blyberg, eds.
Exh. cat. Salem, MA and Amsterdam: Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2015. 356 pp.; 305 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780300212877)
Exhibition schedule: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, October 17, 2015–January 17, 2016; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, February 27–June 5, 2016
Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age is an illustrated catalogue produced to accompany the Peabody Essex Museum and Rijksmuseum exhibition of the same name. Focusing attention on the important role the Dutch played in facilitating and celebrating the material results of cross-cultural trade, it draws together a collection of stunning objects that were exchanged between Europe and Asia in the seventeenth century. The objects selected are remarkably wide-ranging not... Full Review
March 8, 2017
Reiko Tomii
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016. 320 pp.; 18 color ills.; 81 b/w ills. Cloth $36.95 (9780262034128)
Reiko Tomii’s Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan is an impeccably researched and well-written contribution to the modernist art history of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. It also presents a challenge to an art history of modernisms beyond Euramerica. The research deals via case studies with a particular Japanese conceptual artist, Matsuzawa Yutaka (1922–2006); a performance and happenings group called The Play centred in the Kansai; and a... Full Review
March 3, 2017
Laurinda S. Dixon
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2013. 264 pp.; 62 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Paper $39.95 (9780271059365)
In a brief epilogue to The Dark Side of Genius: The Melancholic Persona in Art, ca. 1500–1700, Laurinda Dixon connects the “nerds” and “geeks” of today’s culture with the intellectual tradition that is her primary subject (190). From medieval ascetics to Renaissance stargazers, intellectuals of the past, like their modern counterparts, were often considered oddballs whose unconventional ideas were greeted as more deluded or dangerous than transformational. From ancient Greece to the... Full Review
March 2, 2017
Philippe Geinoz
Histoire des idées et critique littéraire, Volume 480. Geneva: Librarie Droz, 2014. 559 pp.; 10 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Paper €47.40 (9782600017947)
As a literary genre, the thèse- or habilitation-turned-book will have few genuine enthusiasts. These texts are long and often not very lively. Among the examples I’ve encountered, Philippe Geinoz’s Relations au travail: Dialogue entre poésie et peinture à l’époque du cubism: Apollinaire-Picasso-Braque-Gris-Reverdy [Relations at work: Dialogue between poetry and painting in the cubist epoch--Apollinaire, Picasso, Braque, Gris, Reverdy] is among the very best. Indeed, if I... Full Review
March 2, 2017