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

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Ignacio A. Adriasola Muñoz
University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2023. 262 pp.; 16 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth (9780271092904)
Ignacio A. Adriasola Muñoz’s Fragment, Image, and Absence in 1960s Japan is one of the latest contributions to the study of radical Japanese art in the 1960s—the era marked by rapid economic growth and tumultuous political events. The book provides a look at a wide range of radical artistic practices that challenged the social and cultural status quo of the period. The author’s focus is at once specific and broad as he couples detailed analyses of individual artists and artworks with discussions of general trends characterizing the art of the period. While the artists discussed in the book are more… Full Review
November 22, 2023
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Samantha A. Noël
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021. 264 pp.; 8 color ills.; 48 b/w ills. Paper $26.95 (9781478011408)
In Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism, Samantha A. Noël cites E. E. Cummings’s description of Josephine Baker in the premiere of La Folie Du Jour at the Folies-Bergère in 1926 as “equally nonprimitive and uncivilized or, beyond time in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetic” (169). Noël’s study makes sense of how the tropical has been framed beyond arithmetic or reason into an aesthetic strategy by Black artists across the Black Atlantic. If, for Cummings, tropicality, as personified by Baker, is “neither infrahuman nor superhuman, but somehow both; a mysteriously unkillable Something,” (169) Noël explores its persistence through the… Full Review
November 20, 2023
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Luisa Elena Alcalá Donegani
Madrid: Abada Editores, 2022. 462 pp.; 30 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth ( 9788419008084)
Why might a study on the cult of the Virgin of Loreto in Mexico be of interest to readers today? Precisely because it deals with one of the most universal Marian devotions of the early modern period, which allows us to understand the global through the local. As demonstrated by Luisa Elena Alcalá, the Virgin of Loreto embodies a relic of exceptional duality. In one respect, it comprises the Holy House, the very place where the Virgin received the announcement of Jesus’ birth and where the Holy Family would live after their return from Egypt. In 1291, after escaping the… Full Review
November 15, 2023
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Charlene Villasenor Black
Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2022. 398 pp.; 126 color ills. Cloth $119.00 (9780826504715)
Charlene Villaseñor Black’s latest book is concerned with female saints and their aesthetic dimensions and transformations. The author chooses five case studies in an effort to demonstrate and explicate the marked changes the devotions underwent from early modern Spain to New Spain. The function of images within wider, religious, social, and political contexts is a primary concern for the author, and she strives to be especially attuned to “women’s experience” and “issues related to indigeneity and race” (8). All chapters follow a similar pattern—first showing how select saints were seen in Spain before discussing their manifestations and marked differences in… Full Review
November 13, 2023
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Inge Reist, ed.
Studies in the History of Collecting & Art Markets, Volume: 14. Amsterdam: Brill, 2022. 280 pp.; 65 color ills. Hardback $78.00 (9789004460423)
Since 2007, the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Art Reference Library in New York has been a leader in its field. As a list in this book’s foreword demonstrates, the center has produced a number of scholarly tomes that have enriched the study of collecting. This volume departs somewhat from its predecessors in examining the collecting practices and art market of a much earlier period than the center has hitherto done, namely those in Italy during the years 1450–1650. In publishing with Brill’s growing series Studies in the History of Collecting & Art Markets, the center… Full Review
November 8, 2023
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Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, November 20, 2022–April 2, 2023,
Omar Ba’s recent exhibition Omar Ba: Political Animals, at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), updates W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness, which Du Bois restricted to the African American experience in the United States. Du Bois positioned double consciousness as the burden African Americans endure as emissaries of Black culture, while at the same time pledging allegiance to the ideals of being an American in a society ruled by whiteness. Du Bois writes, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness . . .  one ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls… Full Review
November 6, 2023
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Miruna Achim, Susan Deans-Smith, and Sandra Rozental, eds.
Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2021. 312 pp. Cloth $63.50 (9780816539574)
For visitors to the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, it would be “hard to imagine today a mummy or the glass model of a jellyfish next to the emblematic Piedra del Sol” (4). How stabilizing are the geographical, historical, or cultural ligaments between a disintegrating skeleton, a jellyfish in glass, and the premier iconic, basalt embodiment of Mexico? Compelling viewers to buy into a curatorial proposition in which the display of such disparate objects in proximity to each other did or could make sense is the work of the innovative and provocative collection of ten riveting essays in Museum… Full Review
November 2, 2023
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Pamela Karimi
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2023. 452 pp. Paper $35.00 (9781503631809)
In Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practices, Pamela Karimi explores a wide spectrum of contemporary artistic practices in Iran from 1980 to the present day that engage with diverse urban and natural sites, with a particular emphasis on Tehran, Iran’s capital city. These spatial artistic practices range from graffiti and architectural design projects to Gesamtkunstwerk installations in dilapidated buildings, ephemeral performances in remote mountains or in prominent urban spots, choreographies for a trusted group of audience members, theatrical pieces staged in unconventional settings such as taxis, and interventionist strategies within gallery spaces. Previous scholarly works investigating the… Full Review
October 30, 2023
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Sophie Lynford
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2022. 264 pp.; 112 color ills. Cloth $65.00 ( 9780691231914)
Sophie Lynford’s Painting Dissent: Art, Ethics, and the American Pre-Raphaelites is a landmark contribution to scholarship on nineteenth-century American art. Using the work of seven key figures to trace the rise, development, and afterlife of the American Pre-Raphaelite movement, Painting Dissent offers a newly comprehensive account of a significant but understudied group that shook up American landscape practice, aesthetic thought, and many other cultural endeavors in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Indeed, one of the great contributions of Lynford’s book is its account of the multidisciplinary dynamics of the American Pre-Raphaelite project. Painting Dissent examines architects and scientists… Full Review
October 25, 2023
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Andrew Dewdney
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021. 240 pp.; 0 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9781912685820)
In Forget Photography, Andrew Dewdney calls on scholars to stop using photography theory to understand digital images and the visual cultures they characterize. Made with pixels, circulated by data algorithms and social networks, the computational images that suffuse contemporary life require, in Dewdney’s words: “A more productive discourse in which the hybridity of the networked image, inequality, racism and climate change stand at the centre of concern” (12). It is an expansive, necessary, and difficult goal. Aiming to clear space for this more productive discourse, Forget Photography consigns photography to the past: “The analogue photograph, the world to which… Full Review
October 23, 2023
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