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

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Ralph Ubl
Trans. Elizabeth Tucker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. 260 pp.; 5 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $48.00 (9780226823720)
Ralph Ubl takes Max Ernst very seriously in unforeseen ways, not as a pasticheur of fashionable lines of thought—the fire bringer of Freud to Paris—and not as a great painter. This Ernst is more a dark mechanic dismantling the parts of painting (perspective, ground, picture plane, rectangle, contour), which then persist as a “repressed power” (7) in his painting, enigmatically but powerfully generating “effects of the unavailable” (6). What is at stake in the “unavailable” is... Full Review
April 16, 2018
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Mary-Dailey Desmarais and Thomas Brent Smith, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: Abrams, 2017. 304 pp.; 300 color ills. Cloth $45.00 (9788874397655)
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, October 14, 2017–February 4, 2018
Denver Art Museum, May 27–September 10, 2017
“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This quote from John Ford’s film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) illustrates the blurred line between fact and fiction in the American story of nation building. The exhibition Once Upon a Time . . . The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film, cocurated by Mary-Dailey Desmarais of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (<span... Full Review
April 13, 2018
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Darby English
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 312 pp.; 47 color ills.; 26 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9780226131054)
Darby English’s book 1971: A Year in the Life of Color hinges on two pairs of jarring pictures. One of the images is well known: a black-and-white photograph showing members of the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC) protesting in front of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in January 1971. The sandwich boards atop their overcoats brand an upcoming survey of contemporary art by black... Full Review
April 12, 2018
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Michael Gaudio
Visual Culture in Early Modernity. New York: Routledge, 2016. 196 pp.; 16 color ills.; 85 b/w ills. Hardcover $128.00 (9781472460462)
In his latest engagement with print culture, Michael Gaudio demonstrates just how productive print culture’s modes of analysis continue to be. Given its rather predictable art-historical title, it may not be immediately evident that this is virtually the first full-length art-historical study of the Bible concordances produced at Little Gidding in England, unusual for deploying a process of collage in which fragments of printed images were reassembled into unconventional and puzzling... Full Review
April 12, 2018
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Eyal Peretz
Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017. 272 pp.; 17 ills. Hardcover $65.00 (9781503600720)
Eyal Peretz’s premise is that framed artworks, which include paintings, photographs, cinema, and theater, imply an out-of-frame or off-screen space. This is not the literal exterior surrounding the enframed work—the gallery wall on which a painting hangs, the rafters above the stage, the space beyond the bounds of the movie screen—but the world the artwork creates but does not happen to include within its frame. This off-screen or out-of-frame space is part of the artwork inasmuch as the... Full Review
April 11, 2018
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Angela Rosenthal, David Bindman, and Adrian W. B. Randolph, eds.
Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture. Lebanon, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2015. 328 pp.; 12 color ills.; 112 b/w ills. Paperback $45.00 (9781611688214)
The essays in No Laughing Matter: Visual Humor in Ideas of Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity interrogate humor as a transcultural device used to address the thorny issue of racial, social, and political difference. Each of the book’s contributors carefully considers human representation and classification and how stereotypes are constructed through visual culture. One of the book’s coeditors, the late Angela Rosenthal, argues that visual humor must be rigorously examined because... Full Review
April 11, 2018
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Sharon Louden, ed.
Bristol, UK: Intellect Ltd, 2017. 404 pp.; 40 color ills. Paperback $42.00 (9781783207268)
Both frank and richly detailed, Sharon Louden’s broad collection contains forty concrete accounts, fascinating autobiographies in miniature, from artists describing the various ingenious means by which they strive to sustain “a creative life.” There are vital insights here, but often they beg further elaboration.Admittedly, Louden concedes a “hands-off” editorial approach, allowing contributors to speak with their own voices. Nevertheless, attempts are made to bind these accounts... Full Review
April 10, 2018
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Katja Müller-Helle
Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2017. 295 pp.; 58 b/w ills. Hardcover €39.90 (9783770560332)
The history of photography, film, and technology often builds its narratives around significant dates that seem to map precisely the beginning or end of certain developments in these media. The invention of photography in 1839 and the birth date of film in 1895 are such events, and historiography has repeatedly treated them with reference to one another. This dominant schema presents the development of instantaneous photography teleologically as a precursor to the projected... Full Review
April 10, 2018
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Louis P. Nelson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. 324 pp.; 52 color ills.; 198 b/w ills. Hardcover $75.00 (9780300211009)
In this ambitious, generously illustrated, and beautifully produced book, Louis P. Nelson convincingly shows us that Jamaica and its architecture is not peripheral, but central to our understanding of the British Empire in the long eighteenth century (from 1692, the year of the Port Royal earthquake, to 1838, marking emancipation). Departing from the emphasis of many architectural histories of early modern Americas, Nelson focuses on the movement of people (whites and blacks), goods,... Full Review
April 10, 2018
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Teresa Posada Kubissa
Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2010. 524 pp.; 42 color ills.; 128 b/w ills. Paper €38.46 (9788493606046)
The German-Jewish art historian August Liebmann Mayer (1885–1944?) was one of the most distinguished specialists of Spanish art active in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also one of the most prolific. His publications on this subject number in the hundreds, ranging from comprehensive monographs on the leading figures of Spain’s Golden Age to groundbreaking articles that feature important documentary discoveries and new attributions. Mayer was instrumental in expanding... Full Review
April 9, 2018
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