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

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Ding Ning
Beijing: Shenghuo Dushu Xinzhi Sanlian Shudian, 1997. 368 pp.; 23 b/w ills. $19.80
Mianyan zhi wei: zouxiang yishushi zhexue (Dimensions of Duration: Toward a Philosophy of Art History) is the first comprehensive introduction of the methodology of Western art history to a Chinese audience. Ding Ning, professor of art history at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou, has focused on the revisionary writings on the theory and practice of art history that were published for the most part between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s in the Anglo-American world. The revisionist key is reflected in the author's borrowing of the 20th-century French philosopher Henri Bergson's time concept durée (mianyan) in the title of… Full Review
March 15, 1999
Janice Driesbach
Oakland, CA: University of California Press in association with Oakland Museum of California, 1998. 148 pp.; 75 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0520214323)
Exhibition schedule: Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, June 20–Sept. 13, 1998; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., October 30, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, June 20–Sept. 13, 1998–Mar 7, 1999; Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa An Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, June 20–Sept. 13, a, Calif., April 17–June 6, 1999
Art of the Gold Rush, a book that accompanies an exhibition of the same name, sets out to present the impact of the gold rush on the northern California art scene. The authors' stated aim was to depict the era in works of art selected both for their visualization of gold rush themes, and for their intrinsic aesthetic quality. The project is a fascinating one, linking the influx of miners and artists with the rise in appreciation of the fine arts in San Francisco and Sacramento. The exhibition and book present more than genre paintings of the gold rush, extending… Full Review
March 15, 1999
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C. Jean Campbell
Princeton University Press, 1998. 294 pp.; 51 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0691012105)
All visitors to San Gimignano remember the vividly colored and enigmatic fresco decoration of a small tower room in the Palazzo Comunale, now a museum. A series of narratives in reds, pinks, and greens decorate the walls, notable both for the fancy dress of the characters and for their occasional lack of dress in what appear to be compromising situations: in bed, in the bath, and in various monetary transactions. Jean Campbell's study recalls much of the wonder and pleasure that accompanies a first encounter with the frescoes. Indeed, the book is the first comprehensive consideration of these frescoes (discovered… Full Review
March 15, 1999
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Robert E. Hegel
Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. 512 pp.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0804730024)
Craig Clunas
Princeton University Press, 1997. 221 pp.; 16 color ills.; 80 b/w ills. Cloth $39.50 (1861890087)
Both of these books deal extensively with printed and painted pictures made during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), commonly designated as part of the late imperial era. Clunas and others, however, refer to the years 1500-1800 as China's early modern period, in part to challenge Eurocentric definitions of modernization and modernity, but also to recognize global connections linking the economy of China with the economies of Europe, the Americas, and other parts of the world at this time. Craig Clunas is an art historian who has written extensively on Ming dynasty discursive practices regarding various arts. Superfluous Things: Material… Full Review
March 15, 1999
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Joanna R. Barnes and J. Patrice Marandel
Pennsylvania State University Press in association with American Federation of Arts, 1994. 191 pp.; 92 color ills.; 51 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (0812232755)
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, N.C., October 14–December 11, 1994; Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Fla.; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta; Dahesh Museum, New York, September 22, 1998–January 2, 1999
The Dahesh Museum in New York was the latest venue for an exhibition titled French Oil Sketches and the Academic Tradition, organized by the American Federation of the Arts and previously shown, in a more expanded version, at the Mint Museum, the Society of the Four Arts, the Arkansas Art Center, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. The exhibition was composed entirely of works from a single private collection that is on long-term loan to the University Art Museum in Albuquerque. Perfectly suited to the Dahesh Museum, both for its size and its theme, this exhibition… Full Review
January 28, 1999
Benoy K. Behl
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 256 pp.; 186 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0810919834)
When I first opened this book, the spine broke, a premonition of things to come. But let me start with the book's strengths, for certainly there are some. Benoy Behl is a photographer who enjoys the challenge of working in low-light conditions such as those of the rock-cut shrines that form the Buddhist monastery of Ajanta. His photographs bring out the extraordinary richness of Ajanta's paintings and capture details that I have failed to see or to see in the lush fashion that his photographs capture. It is too bad, however, that the book's many color plates represent details… Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Vincent Pomarede and Arlette Serullaz
Exh. cat. Thames and Hudson, 1998. 408 pp.; 250 b/w ills. $65.00 (0500092753)
Grand Palais, Paris, April 7–July 20, 1998; Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 15, 1998–January 3, 1999
"I am in that phase of life when the tumult of the mad passions does not mingle with the delightful emotions which works of art give to me. I don't know the meaning of dusty papers and hateful occupations, which is what almost all human beings must devote themselves to; instead of thinking of business, I think only of Rubens and Mozart: my great business, for a week, is the memory of an aria or a picture. I go to my work as others hasten to their mistress, and when I leave it, I carry away into my solitude or… Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Ilay Cooper and Barry Dawson
New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 192 pp.; 92 color ills.; 128 b/w ills. Cloth (0500341613)
Ilay Cooper's text is sumptuously illustrated with photographs mostly by Barry Dawson. His focus on traditional buildings is apparently based on anthropologist Milton Singer's long-accepted but now challenged notion that Indian culture could be divided into two dichotomous strands, the great tradition and the little tradition. Indeed, Cooper's definition of traditional architecture "as architecture without architects," by which he means architecture built by local and often skilled craftspeople but without the guidance of "a sophistical urban professional" (p. 10), seemed to fall into Singer's little tradition category. Reading further, however, it became clear that the text is marred by outmoded… Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Lawrence Nees, ed.
Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1998. 257 pp.; 156 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0915651092)
This volume gives an interesting sample, though not a survey, of current scholarship on the art of early medieval Europe. Its editor, Lawrence Nees, has given it shape and balance that clearly reflect his own approach to the material. Nees has long been constructing bridges over the divide between Western "medieval" and "Byzantine" art, an enterprise indebted to the example of Ernst Kitzinger, to whom this book is dedicated. Geographical boundaries are facts of American academic life, both in the courses we teach and in the conferences we attend (usually either the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo or… Full Review
January 28, 1999
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Judith Barter
Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 320 pp.; 100 color ills.; 200 b/w ills. $65.00 (0810940892)
Art Institute of Chicago, October 10, 1998–January 10, 1999; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, February 14–May 9, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 6–September 6, 1999
Not surprisingly, the public flocked to see the well-conceived Mary Cassatt exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, standing in line to buy calendars, posters, refrigerator magnets, and coffee cups adorned with her beloved images. Yet the exhibition curator, Judith Barter, intentionally downplayed the sentimental side of Cassatt, opting instead to show her evolution as a "modern" artist. Ninety key works, including paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints, highlighted Cassatt's progress from a young artist studying in Europe to her acceptance as a member of the Parisian avant-garde. Loosely following this basic chronology, each of the seven galleries was organized around… Full Review
January 28, 1999
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