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

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Peter B. Nesbett and Michelle DuBois, eds.
University of Washington Press 257 pp. $125.00 (0295979631)
Although he spent nearly all of his professional life in the public eye, Jacob Lawrence has remained an elusive figure. A child of the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence was born too late to be more than a perceptive eyewitness to that movement. A figurative artist whose small-scale paintings were driven by historical narratives, the artist reached maturity in an era that preferred grand, mute abstractions. Socially engaged but reticent to protest, a critical darling well removed from the centrism... Full Review
March 11, 2001
Eckart Marchand and Alison Wright, eds.
Ashgate, 1998. 187 pp.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $84.95 (185928423X)
A bound volume of diverse studies does not necessarily constitute a book derived from a coherent idea. This thought arises when reading With and Without the Medici: Studies in Tuscan Art and Patronage 1434-1530. Even though the editors, Eckart Marchand and Alison Wright, introduce the publication with an intellectual framework, they fail to unify the articles within that framework. The alleged theme of the book is art patronage in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Tuscany, dominated by... Full Review
February 25, 2001
Julie Ann Plax
Cambridge University Press, 2000. 272 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (052164268X)
Julie Anne Plax's Watteau and the Cultural Politics of Eighteenth-Century France belongs to what we might call the "third wave" of writing on Watteau that has transpired during the two centuries following the artist's own. The first, nineteenth-century manifestation of Watteau writing presented the paintings as dreamy, imaginative poems and the artist himself as a melancholy visionary. Early in the following century began a second, more objectivist trend that sought to codify and... Full Review
February 22, 2001
Martin Clayton
Merrell Holberton Publishers, 1999. 224 pp.; 94 color ills.; 91 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (1858940761)
The Queen's Gallery, London, May 21-October 10, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, May 14-July 23, 2000; Art Gallery of Ontario,
This catalogue accompanied an exhibition made up of sixty-six sheets constituting the Royal collection's entire holdings in this area. All of the drawings are illustrated in color, including any significant versos. As he has done in the past with Leonardo and Poussin, Martin Clayton, the organizer of the exhibition and sole author of the catalogue, does a masterful job bringing together a great deal of information in a form that makes an often complex field accessible to the general reader.... Full Review
February 21, 2001
Jill Beaulieu, Mary Roberts, and Toni Ross, eds.
Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 2000. 407 pp.; 4 b/w ills. Paper (1864870249)
Michael Fried wrote a number of essays about contemporary painting and sculpture in the 1960s to which arguments about these topics still return. Some will think it ironic that it should be an essay about sculpture which has become the most widely read and influential, as Fried has mostly concerned himself with painting. Since the sixties Fried has devoted himself almost exclusively to historical subjects, but this has not meant that he has become less influential—only that when people gather... Full Review
February 19, 2001
Marjorie Welish
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 321 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (0521633931)
Marjorie Welish has done an admirable job of identifying key issues that have occupied artists during postmodern times. Her essays "investigate the fate of the concept of the brushstroke" during a period when the boundary conditions of art were being aggressively re-evaluated. The various approaches taken by the major members of the New York School—Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Barnett Newman, among others—are constantly in the background of her... Full Review
February 19, 2001
Barbara Butts, Lee Hendrix, and Scott Wolf
Getty Trust Publications, 2000. 330 pp.; 178 color ills.; 127 b/w ills. Cloth $125.00 (0892365781)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, July 11–September 24, 2000; The Saint Louis Art Museum, November 4, 2000–January 7, 2001
Painting on Light: Drawings and Stained Glass in the Age of Dürer and Holbein was a stunning exhibition of 152 drawings and examples of stained glass (see the exhibition review by Christiane Andersson in Burlington Magazine CXLII no. 1173, December 2000, pp. 801–803). The Los Angeles venue included a two-day international symposium (September 15–16, 2000). The exhibition was also seen at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Perhaps the single greatest achievement of this ambitious... Full Review
February 19, 2001
Milly Heyd
Rutgers University Press, 1999. 272 pp.; 112 b/w ills. Paper $24.00 (0813526183)
Milly Heyd's Mutual Reflections is a fascinating study of the ways that African Americans and Jewish Americans have depicted each other in the visual arts over the last century. While this distinctive, complex relationship has been explored in cultural, social, religious, and political areas, this book is the first to analyze that linkage through its visual dimension in a substantive way. Heyd investigates how these artists have viewed each other in ways ranging from symbiosis to... Full Review
February 19, 2001
William J. Mitchell
MIT Press, 1996. 225 pp.; 16 b/w ills. Paper $15.95 (0262631768)
Originally published—in print and entirely online—in 1995, William J. Mitchell's City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn resembles a relic of early cyberculture scholarship, going back and forth between visionary insight and embarrassing naiveté. As one of the earliest attempts to reimagine and reconceptualize architecture and urbanism in an age of digital information, City of Bits provides a thought-provoking and generous glimpse into the cities—and citizens—of tomorrow.... Full Review
February 13, 2001
Luminita Machedon and Ernie Scoffham
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998. 407 pp.; 306 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0262133482)
With each passing year, the geographic area of modernism seems to increase. Similar to the expansion of NATO, but lacking the political strife, modernism's boundary gradually moves eastward to include lands that were abandoned to their own sphere of influence following the Second World War. In recent years though, Western art and architectural historians have begun to rediscover what was, in fact, the heartland of modernism: Central Europe. However Central Europe is defined—whether... Full Review
February 9, 2001