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

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Otto Karl Werckmeister
University of Chicago Press, 1999. 188 pp.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0226893553)
The prevailing tone of Icons of the Left: Benjamin and Eisenstein, Picasso and Kafka After the Fall of Communism is exasperation. "The predicament of leftist intellectuals working in capitalist society, like myself," says Otto Karl Werckmeister, "has been that their principled critique of capitalism has nearly always been advanced in a hypothetical mode" (p. 5). Arguing for a solution to this problem, which--consistent with his Marxism--he believes to have been caused by the separation... Full Review
December 1, 1999
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Ethan Matt Kavaler
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 403 pp.; 139 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521622670)
With A. E. Popham's publication in 1932 of Abraham Ortelius's epitaph on Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the traditional figure of Droll Bruegel, of Peasant Bruegel, was soon replaced by Bruegel the peintre philosophe, as Charles de Tolnay characterized him in his monograph of 1935. It is thus understandable that scholars have sought to locate Bruegel's "audience" among the intellectual circles of Antwerp, especially Ortelius and his colleagues, the classical scholars around Christophe... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Judson J. Emerick
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 446 pp.; 208 b/w ills. Cloth $105.00 (0271017287)
In his long-awaited monograph on the Tempietto del Clitunno, Judson Emerick seeks to dispel the myths surrounding this enigmatic building. The fifteenth- and sixteenth-century humanists who discovered the building saw it as a Roman temple converted to Christian purpose. Thus, Leon Battista Alberti observed, "I myself have seen in Umbria a small ancient temple..." (book 1, chapter 8). Modern scholars however, have concluded that the structure was built in the medieval period, principally... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Daniel Weiss
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 279 pp.; 8 color ills.; 96 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521621305)
The reverberations of Saint Louis's oath to embark on his first crusade to the Holy Land were acutely felt throughout the royal domain. In examining this period, Daniel Weiss draws a connection between the iconographic program of the Ste-Chapelle in Paris (1244–48) and the Old Testament manuscript produced in Acre shortly after 1250, now in the Bibliothèque d'Arsenal in Paris (MS 5211) (8). This bold confederacy of monuments is based on the common themes of sacred kingship, holy war, wisdom,... Full Review
November 29, 1999
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Robert Jones
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 279 pp.; 5 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0521593263)
In eighteenth-century Britain, expanding mercantile enterprise, supported through rapid colonial expansion, yielded broad cultural expectations concerning access not only to wealth, but also to the status traditionally accorded to the aristocratic elite. A burgeoning material economy confused the visual economy producing status. Customary signs of wealth and standing were devalued, awash in a flood of luxury goods. Simultaneously, these very markers, desired for their power to project an... Full Review
November 15, 1999
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Claire Perry
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 256 pp.; 60 color ills.; 154 b/w ills. Paper $25.00 (0195109376)
Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Stanford, California, April 21–June 27, 1999; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, October 30, 1999–January 9, 2000; Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, Nebraska, February 19–April 30, 2000
As suggested by the title Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600-1915, this exhibition and the book that accompanies it study the changing and inducible imagery of the "California Dream" as presented by Claire Perry, curator of American art at Stanford's Cantor Center for Visual Arts. Perry traces how, over a period of centuries, a variety of pictorial imagery was used to market California as the golden land of opportunity. Perry's text, based on her doctoral dissertation, not... Full Review
November 15, 1999
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John Maeda
MIT Press, 1999. 250 pp.; 200 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (0262133547)
A recent profile of Jasper Johns finds the painter amid various projects in his studio ("A Master of Silence Who Speaks in Grays," New York Times, Sept. 5, 1999, Section 2, page 29, col. 1). On the wall is a work in progress that includes a string suspended from two points along the perimeter and forming a gentle curve as it arcs across the canvas. When told by a house guest that the resultant curve not only has a name but also a precise mathematical derivation, one frequently used by... Full Review
November 3, 1999
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Ross Neher
Ed. Michael Takiff. New York: Prenom Press, 1999. 110 pp.; 3 b/w ills. Paper $15.00 (0967180805)
Ross Neher's recently published book, Blindfolding the Muse: The Plight of Painting in the Age of Conceptual Art, has all the makings of a curmudgeon's acerbic longing for the days when painting was the only game in town, before "ideas" were privileged over the visual. Not short on wit and one-liners, Neher's book envisions a solution for painting's return to the unique status it once held. But the author refrains from excessively condemning Conceptual art for bringing down painting.... Full Review
November 2, 1999
James Schmiechen and Kenneth Carls
Yale University Press, 1999. 352 pp.; 98 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300060645)
Britain's grand age of market hall construction, 1830-90, saw the transformation of traditional open-air markets into mammoth multi-storied buildings with standardized stalls and shops arranged within variations of a parallelogram. Often wrapped in a Gothic, Italianate, or eclectic shop-front façade, the market hall provided the modern townscape with a new and distinctive addition to an expanding range of civic and commercial structures, such as the town hall, courthouse, railway station,... Full Review
October 29, 1999
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David Craven
Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 232 pp.; 40 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521434157)
Why "yet another study" of Abstract Expressionism? David Craven answers his own question by positing that his book discloses "new material," provides a "novel approach," and embodies "a shift in critical perspective" (p. 2) regarding the art historical analysis of what may well be American art's best known and most widely discussed style of painting. The new sources that Craven examines consist of two sets of previously unpublished materials: 200 pages of FBI files on various Abstract... Full Review
October 26, 1999
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