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

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Catherine E. Karkov
Cambridge University Press, 2002. 225 pp.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (0521800692)
In this volume, Catherine Karkov examines the textual linkages and visual stratagems that unify Oxford, Bodleian Library Junius 11, an anthology including the Old English verse Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan. Karkov presents the imagery of Junius 11 in the context of eleventh-century learning and proposes a new and more sophisticated understanding of the relationship of text and image, where the images' performance as a commentary on the text depends... Full Review
September 20, 2002
James Meyer
Yale University Press, 2001. 320 pp.; 30 color ills.; 130 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300081553)
The late Craig Owens began his 1979 review of Robert Smithson's collected writings[1] with a gloss on a passage from the artist's "A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art," which, Owens noted, fell "precisely at the center" (on page 67 of 133) of the first section of Smithson's book. Owens's conceit not only acknowledges the centrality of language in Smithson's work, but the way in which the essay itself both figures and performs the decentering effects of the "eruption of language into... Full Review
September 19, 2002
Xiaoneng Yang
Kansas City: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in association with University of Washington Press, 2000. 412 pp.; 1 color ills.; 114 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0942614305)
Reflections of Early China: Décor, Pictographs, and Pictorial Inscriptions by Xiaoneng Yang is an ambitious study that attempts to define the relationship between "pictorial" writing and pictorial imagery from early China, which is characterized as the late Neolithic through early Western Zhou periods, ca. 3000–1000 B.C.E. The author's primary interest in this book is neither art-historical nor aesthetic, but rather historical and epigraphic. His main goal is to identify the... Full Review
September 17, 2002
Nestor Garcia Canclini
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 200 pp. Paper $19.95 (0816629870)
Néstor García Canclini's book Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts, originally published in Spanish by Grijalbo in 1995, is an important contribution to the contemporary debate on citizenship from the vantage point of Latin America. This English-language version, translated by George Yúdice, presents timely arguments for reevaluating the increasing influence of consumption in the definition of cultural policies. García Canclini argues that multiculturalism,... Full Review
September 12, 2002
Ivan Gaskell
Reaktion Books, 2001. 280 pp.; 1 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $27.00 (1861890729)
If an Orlando-like epic romp through the scholarly and institutional afterlife of the painting reproduced on the cover of Ivan Gaskell's Vermeer's Wager: Speculations on Art History, Theory, and Art Museums is suggested by the book's title, then this book cannot readily be judged by its cover. The cover stands a chance only once we find out what the author means by "Vermeer's wager": ...that it is possible by means of art to embody systematic abstract ideas... Full Review
September 12, 2002
John T. Spike
Abbeville Press, 2001. 272 pp.; 160 color ills.; 190 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0789206390)
Can a book be judged by its cover? Monographs on Caravaggio, as David Carrier has observed in "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: Caravaggio and His Interpreters" (Word and Image 3 (1987): 50), are a case in point. The dust-jacket illustrations that embellish studies of this artist's work are usually selected from a small group of well-known canvases that are considered synecdochic of his stylistic or thematic preferences as a whole. In the case of John T. Spike's new book on the... Full Review
September 6, 2002
Michael Zell
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 264 pp.; 114 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0520227417)
In addition to providing refuge for Europe's oppressed Jewry, seventeenth-century Amsterdam served as the hub of a theological movement devoted to effecting rapprochement between Jews and Christians. This program, known today as "philosemitism," was mainly the brainchild of Dutch and English Protestant millenarians who, inspired by their interpretation of biblical prophecy, held such reconciliation to be a precondition of messianic redemption. Also central to the effort was a leading member... Full Review
September 6, 2002
Wen C. Fong
Yale University Press, 2001. 300 pp.; 114 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300088507)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 30-August 19, 2001.
If the standard exhibition catalogue of Chinese art is a collection of topical essays and entries that describe individual items, then Between Two Cultures: Late-Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is both more and less than what we normally expect. Wen C. Fong's book neither provides sufficient description of the exhibition's contents, allowing the reader to know what was in it, nor tells him or her what... Full Review
September 6, 2002
Ebba Koch
New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001. 345 pp.; 235 b/w ills. Cloth $72.00 (0195648218)
Ebba Koch's Mughal Art and Imperial Ideology: Collected Essays contains eleven essays published between 1982 and 1997 on the art and architecture produced under the Mughals (1526–1858), the longest-surviving and richest of all the dynasties to rule the Indian subcontinent. The texts range in length from a short, eleven-page reflection on the impact of the Jesuit Missions on the depictions of the Mughal emperors to a seventy-page, near book-length study of the decoration on the throne... Full Review
September 3, 2002
Philip Steadman
Oxford University Press, 2001. 232 pp.; 10 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $25.00 (0192159674)
Philip Steadman presents his case for Johannes Vermeer's use of the camera obscura with prosecutorial flair, bringing in diagrams, reconstructions, and a variety of circumstantial evidence. Vermeer never wrote about his methods, and no physical evidence exists in the form of preparatory drawings or sketches. The inventory of his studio contents lists standard equipment, such as easels and canvases, without a hint about lenses, boxes, or any other unusual objects that might place a camera... Full Review
August 30, 2002