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

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Richard Townsend, ed.
New York: Thames and Hudson in association with Art Institute of Chicago, 1998. 446 pp.; 258 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0500050929)
The lively ceramic traditions of ancient West Mexico are well-known: bold, painted warriors, women, and animals, including the famous Colima dogs; small painted house models and village scenes in which humans feast, play ball, and dance. Much of this work was created in the era between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D., the Late Formative phase of Mesoamerican cultural history. Although visually familiar, this work has never been well understood. It has seldom been studied on its own terms, but seen... Full Review
May 10, 1999
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Mary Warner Blanchard
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 320 pp.; 221 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300074603)
In this study, Mary Warner Blanchard re-reads the American aesthetic movement as a broad-based, popular enterprise that produced a vibrant, female, public culture through the medium of the decorative arts. Her goal is to rescue important "female visionaries" of the movement from the oblivion that befell them through most of the twentieth century. (pp. xiv-xv) Blanchard selects four fascinating and underrated figures for reevaluation: textile designer Candace Thurber Wheeler, poet Celia... Full Review
May 7, 1999
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Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, eds.
New York: Phaidon, 1998. 304 pp.; many color ills.; many b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0714835145)
Among European publishers of books on environmental art, largely American, there seems to be a consensus that the representation of projects encompassing such extensive terrain demands oversize display. The sizes of printed pages, illustrations, and often fonts, are jumbo, sheets are thick, pages in great number, overall, the tomes hefty. Thus Gilles Tiberghien's Land Art, published by Editions Carres, Paris, in 1993, and in an English translation by Princeton Architectural Press in... Full Review
May 7, 1999
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Paul Hayes Tucker, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 192 pp. Paper $49.95 (0521479843)
For all the directness of its facture, and despite the candor of model Victorine Meurent's knowing (yet somehow alienated) gaze, Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a manifesto of modern painting, has always proved problematic when it comes to critical and historical interpretation. At the time of its succes de scandale at the Salon des refusés in 1863, one critic admitted that he searched "in vain for the meaning" of it. Since that time, various readings have been suggested, none... Full Review
May 6, 1999
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Michael Kelly, ed.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 2224 pp.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $495.00 (0195113071)
The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics will be a useful resource to students, practitioners, and historians of the arts, as well as to aestheticians and other philosophers. But this may not be evident from its title. For those who define terms narrowly, this publication tests the boundaries of "aesthetics" and "encyclopedia." However, those who are simply wary of reading about aesthetics or of consulting encyclopedias will be pleasantly surprised. Aesthetics, here, is interpreted broadly, and... Full Review
May 3, 1999
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Richard Kendall
Exh. cat. Harry N. Abrams, 1997. 160 pp.; 85 color ills.; 36 b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0810963663)
National Gallery of Art, October 4, 1998–January 3, 1999; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, January 17–May 16, 1999
Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, currently mounted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new West Wing (the onetime May Company Building on Wilshire) is a chronological overview of the artist's career as a painter, comprising seventy works from 1882 to 1890. Imposing chestnuts (The Potato Eaters, Vincent's Bedroom) and masterful achievements (The Harvest (Blue Cart), Blossoming Almond Branch) co-mingle with pictures of modest... Full Review
May 3, 1999
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Michael R. Cunningham
Exh. cat. Cleveland: Hudson Hills Press in association with The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1998. 286 pp.; 175 color ills.; 83 b/w ills. $50.00
The Cleveland Museum of Art held a monumental exhibition of Buddhist art from August 9 through September 27, 1998. Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan writes in her catalogue essay that "the Cleveland Museum of Art, in bringing the art of the Nara National Museum before an American audience . . . in all their [its] richness and diversity, is in itself an act of lasting merit that helps to preserve one of the great traditions of Asian art" (p. 33). In effect, an... Full Review
April 30, 1999
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Philip W. Jackson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 222 pp. Cloth $48.00 (9780300072136)
Pragmatism maintained that a proposition must be tested, rendered active, before it can be deemed valid. The criteria of judgment that William James set out is simply "what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world formula or that world formula be true." It is therefore appropriate that the first American school of theory should be used to test the operations of contemporary American art. William James's criteria is extended by the... Full Review
April 30, 1999
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Cecil L. Striker and Y. Dogan Kuban, eds.
Munich: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1997. 150 pp.; 35 color ills.; 144 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (3805320264)
When the International Congress of Byzantine Studies convened in Istanbul in 1955, none of its delegates was able to enter the Byzantine church now known as the Kalenderhane Camii, even though it lay barely five minutes from Istanbul University. Locked and abandoned, the building was not penetrated until a decade later, when Striker received permission to cut the lock, the key having long since disappeared. The state of decrepitude he found could not disguise the Kalenderhane's historical... Full Review
April 30, 1999
Irmgard Siede
Munich: EOS Verlag, 1997. 333 pp.; 12 color ills.; 68 b/w ills. €57.30 (388096629X)
In 1891, Wilhelm Vöge inaugurated the modern academic study of Ottonian book illumination with the publication of his dissertation, Eine deutsche Malerschule um die Wende des ersten Jahrtausends (Trier, 1891). Vöge's still classic monograph assembled a cohesive corpus of selected Ottonian manuscripts based on an investigation that included stylistic, iconographic, and textual criticism; his Malerschule has since been attributed to the monastic scriptorium of Reichenau. Despite... Full Review
April 29, 1999