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

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Peter McNair, Robert Joseph, and Bruce Greenville, eds.
Seattle and Vancouver: University of Washington Press in association with Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group, 1998. 192 pp. Paper $30.00 (0295977094)
Natives from Puget Sound to Southeast Alaska have for centuries created remarkable and striking masks. These artworks are the subject Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast, the catalogue of an exhibition put on at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1998 and currently traveling about the United States and Canada. The two curators of the exhibit, Peter Macnair and Robert Joseph, join with Vancouver Art Gallery Senior Curator Bruce Greenville to present this lavishly... Full Review
October 13, 1999
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Mark Cheetham, Keith Moxey, and Michael Ann Holly, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1998. 336 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Cloth (0521454905)
The editors understand this collection of essays to be concerned with "the making of art-historical meaning." They divide the volume into sections that broadly categorize the subjects which art history has addressed since its origins in the nineteenth century: "Philosophy of History and Historiography," "The Subjects and Objects of Art History," and "Places & Spaces for Visual Studies." The variety of topics and approaches found in the essays themselves, mirrors, so the compilers argue, the... Full Review
October 8, 1999
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Neil Leach
MIT Press, 1999. 101 pp.; 4 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $16.50 (0262621266)
Neil Leach's The Anaesthetics of Architecture proclaims itself a polemical work that aims to challenge the unrigorous thinking that has dominated architecture in recent years. The book stages this challenge as a critique of the image, only making explicit any association between the visual and the textual in its final pages. Leach's argument is that society has been completely aestheticized through the saturation by, and intoxication with, images, ultimately producing an anaesthetizing... Full Review
October 8, 1999
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Alice T. Friedman
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. 242 pp.; 30 color ills.; 110 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780300117899)
Alice Friedman begins her book Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History with the question, "Why were independent women clients such powerful catalysts for innovation in domestic projects?" She answers it through a series of case studies devoted to twentieth-century houses built for single women: the Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Aline Barnsdall, a wealthy producer of avant-garde theater who was also a friend of Emma Goldman; the... Full Review
October 8, 1999
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Shearer West, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 237 pp.; 31 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0521552230)
Anthologies are an excellent means of stimulating interest and additional research into underexplored areas of art history, and in this regard Shearer West's volume is right on target. It consists of nine essays on various aspects of the Italian cultural presence in transalpine Europe during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and is introduced by West's informative and comprehensive essay "Visual Culture, Performance Culture and the Italian Diaspora in the Long Eighteenth... Full Review
October 8, 1999
Gary Michael Tartakov
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997. 153 pp.; 108 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0195633725)
For thirty years, a significant voice in Indian art-historical scholarship has been Gary Tartakov's, and though his interests and publications have varied, in this book he returns to his original area of expertise, the art of the Calukya dynasty (c. 542-757). The Durga temple (located in Aihole, Karnataka, a south Indian state) has inspired much scholarly speculation. Tartakov examines the Durga temple in two essays; in the first section he unpacks the layers of historiographic writings that... Full Review
September 24, 1999
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Herbert L. Kessler and Gerhard Wolf, eds.
Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale, 1998. 340 pp.; 167 b/w ills. Cloth (8877795158)
On August 15, 944 two sacred objects entered the city of Constantinople. One of these was a letter reputedly sent by Christ to King Abgar of Edessa. The other was a miraculous image of Christ impressed on a cloth and reportedly sent along with this letter. These objects were received with magnificent imperial ceremonial. Although they were soon secreted away within the Great Palace of Constantinople, the image/cloth itself was widely disseminated in Byzantine art. In time, the Holy Face was... Full Review
September 24, 1999
Victor I. Stoichita
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 345 pp.; 131 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0521433932)
Victor I. Stoichita is one of the most imaginative younger art historians in Europe, and has recently burst into English-language publishers' lists. His books Visionary Experience in the Golden Age of Spanish Art and A Short History of the Shadow appeared with Reaktion Books (London) in 1995 and 1997. The book under review, also published in 1997, is a translation of L'Instauration du tableau: Metapeinture a l'aube des temps modernes (Paris: Meridiens Klinksieck, 1993).... Full Review
September 24, 1999
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Amy McNair
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 1998. 142 pp.; 47 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (0824820029)
This book can be added to the small group of modern monographs on Chinese calligraphy that engage the art of calligraphy with the discipline of art history. It is a small book, only 142 pages of main text, but in many ways a model for writing on this difficult subject. McNair establishes the traditional Chinese belief in characterology-- reading the personality of a writer in his works--as a central basis for her own approach to understanding the calligraphy of Yan Zhenqing. Yan was, of... Full Review
September 24, 1999
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John T. Young
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. 136 pp.; 85 color ills. Paper $24.95 (0295977086)
This book is a collection of photographs of public art with associated notes from comments by the sculptors and others, together with the author's observations on a journey made in 1995. The photographs, whilst usually good, are by no means as complete records as the text intends, for example there being major details missing from the Monument to the Heroes of the People, 1959, and major works omitted, such as The Rent Collection Courtyard, 1965, even if these may not in 1995... Full Review
September 8, 1999