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

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Jeff Kowalski
Oxford University Press, 2016. 432 pp. $125.00 (9780195079616)
Mesoamerican Architecture as Cultural Symbol is one of the latest in a series of recent works on architecture in ancient Middle America. Jeff Kowalski's volume joins The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews (Scribner, 1998), and Stephen Houston's edited volumes Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture (Dumbarton Oaks, 1999), and Royal Courts of the Maya (with Takeshi Inomata, Westview Press,... Full Review
April 7, 2000
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Emma Barker
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 272 pp.; 60 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Paper $27.50 (0300077831)
Mary Anne Staniszewski
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 400 pp.; 204 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0262194023)
More than twenty years have passed since scholars Carol Duncan, Brian O'Doherty, and Alan Wallach published their groundbreaking critical analyses of art museums and their display strategies. These incisive essays launched a wave of vehement institutional critiques that effectively pitted critically informed academic concerns against contemporary museum practices. Two of the more recent additions to the fray--Mary Anne Staniszewski's The Power of Display and the Open University's... Full Review
April 5, 2000
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Exhibition Schedule: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, March 16-May 28, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, June 25-September 17, 2000
Cities as art centers have not always had the attention they deserve, especially in art exhibitions, because of the daunting problems of scale as well as the problems of representation of both the architectural environment and the unmovable monuments. There have been some truly notable exceptions, with particular relevance to this ambitious effort on Rome: Philadelphia's own Second Empire Paris exhibition as well as Detroit's 18th-Century Naples (1981). Once more Philadelphia has taken on a... Full Review
April 1, 2000
Richard Hill
Yale University Press, 1999. 288 pp.; 106 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (0300079486)
The fall issue of Aesthetics, the newsletter of the American Society for Aesthetics, brought an article by Saul Fisher called "Analytic Philosophy of Architecture: A Course." Quickly the introductory discussion proceeded to the question: "Why the Philosophy of Architecture?" That question was narrowed: "Why an Analytic Philosophy of Architecture?" Architects in recent years have of course shown quite an extraordinary interest in philosophy. But the analytic philosopher of architecture... Full Review
March 31, 2000
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Mojmir Frinta
Prague: Maxdorf 556 pp. (8085800942)
This volume, the first of two, offers a catalogue raisonné of the diverse motif punch impressions in panel painting and book illumination collected by the auther over a span of thirty-five years. As indicated in the title, the volume covers such evidence in the period from the early fourteenth to the fifteenth century in Italy, and also in countries north of the Alps, especially Bohemia. It further includes some early Byzantine and late medieval material. The photos of the motif punch... Full Review
March 30, 2000
Diane Fischer, ed.
Exh. cat. Montclair: Montclair Art Museum in association with Rutgers University Press, 1999. 232 pp.; 101 b/w ills. $50.00 (0813526418)
The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, September 19, 1999-Jan.16, 2000; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,Philadelphia, PA, February 12-April 16, 2000; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH, May 18-August 13, 2000; Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 16-December 3, 2000; Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France, February 2-May 15, 2001.
Diane P. Fischer opens the principal essay of the Paris 1900 catalogue with a reference to the self-conscious declaration of the American Department of Fine Arts at the Paris Exposition of 1900 to present the United States as a nation free of "foreign trammels." The examination of this desire to assert a unique American identity, both political and artistic, binds Fischer's text with the other essays of the catalogue, detailing the complex interrelationships of national and artistic... Full Review
March 29, 2000
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Chantal Thomas
Trans. Julie Rose. MIT Press, 1999. 255 pp.; 6 b/w ills. Cloth $26.00 (0942299396)
Witness the arrest of Marie-Antoinette as image in the stark drawing by Jacques-Louis David that cuts the Queen's last vestige of luxury, a pair of black silk shoes we are told she wore in defiance to the guillotine, down to the barest gashes. That which Terry Castle diagnoses as "Marie-Antoinette obsession" [The Apparitional Lesbian (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993)] infuses these ancien régime material objects, associated with the doomed Queen, with a particular charge. A... Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Jonathan Crary
London, UK: MIT Press, 1999. 397 pp.; 86 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0262032651)
Jonathan Crary sets out the central thesis of his book at the outset of the seventy richly annotated pages of its first chapter, "Modernity and the Problem of Attention." The topic of attention became central to scientific research and intellectual thought in the late nineteenth century, he argues, with attention itself coming to be considered "an essential but fragile imposition of coherence and clarity onto the dispersed contents of consciousness" (18). As evidence, he cites the work of... Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Christopher M. S. Johns
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 288 pp.; 85 b/w ills.; 1 ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520212010)
The sculptor Canova rose to fame and fortune despite the conflicts that arose during the Napoleonic Era. He succeeded in doing so not only because of his exceptional artistic talents, but also because of his astute diplomacy that enabled him to remain a free agent. Christopher Johns makes clear the complex strategy of "political ambivalence" that allowed the artist to partake of the patronage of Europe's ruling elite, despite their bitter enmities. This instructive study of Canova, his... Full Review
March 28, 2000
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Peter Harrison
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 12 color ills.; 127 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0500050945)
As anyone who has seen the 1977 film Star Wars can attest, the ruined Maya city of Tikal in northern Guatemala presents a dramatic spectacle. Stephen Spielberg used the image of the site's massive temples poking above the forest canopy to portray the secret rebel base. Tikal is Guatemala's most visited tourist attraction, and has fascinated both the general public and Mayanists since its discovery in the 1850s. Thanks to the University of Pennsylvania Tikal Project in the 1950s and... Full Review
March 28, 2000
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