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

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Jason Weems
Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis, 2015. 368 pp.; 16 color ills.; 116 b/w ills. Paper $35.00 (9780816677511)
The role of modernity in influencing vision has produced such a wealth of insightful scholarship that it can be surprising when a new study contributes substantially to the field. Jason Weems’s Barnstorming the Prairies: How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest provides an engaging and thoughtful analysis of how the elevated vantage point helped to create the modern Midwestern landscape and, in turn, informed the region’s identity. Weems explores how the aerial, synoptic view of the... Full Review
May 17, 2017
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Rachel Cohen
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. 344 pp.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $27.95 (9780300149425)
Rachel Cohen’s clear, concise, and gracefully written retelling of the life of Bernard Berenson is far more manageable than Ernest Samuels’s long, magisterial biography published in 1979 (Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). It would be unfair to think a much shorter account would cover any part of Berenson’s life in equal depth to Samuels’s study, but a reader might reasonably form that expectation about at least one... Full Review
May 17, 2017
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Elizabeth Milroy
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 464 pp.; 188 b/w ills. Cloth $64.95 (9780271066769)
In his iconic 1964 The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Leo Marx surveyed early American literature and painting to uncover a uniquely American understanding of the collective landscape. Elizabeth Milroy—framing her lens on early Philadelphia—has produced an equally authoritative and compelling portrait of how a city’s actual landscape fabric has been fashioned through a process of negotiating and representing a... Full Review
May 12, 2017
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Per Rumberg and Holm Bevers
Exh. cat. New York: Morgan Library and Museum, 2016. 78 pp.; 55 color ills. Paper $24.95 (9780875981765)
Exhibition schedule: Morgan Library and Museum, June 3–September 18, 2016
Rembrandt’s First Masterpiece offered visitors a rare opportunity to engage with Rembrandt’s painted Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver (1629) and the three surviving sheets of preparatory drawings associated with it. The exhibition marked the first time that the painting, long held in an English private collection and, as the exhibition’s title suggested, regarded as a decisive work for the artist’s subsequent development, was shown in the United States. For context,... Full Review
May 11, 2017
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Exhibition schedule: Guayanilla-Peñuelas region, Puerto Rico, September 23, 2015–September 23, 2017
Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), a site-specific installation created by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, is a post-colonial inversion and commentary on the complicated state of U.S.-Puerto Rican relations. This iteration of what appears to be an ongoing project also develops one of their consistent themes: light as illumination, energy, and power. Dan Flavin’s iconic Minimalist, fluorescent-light sculpture Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake) made in 1965 was... Full Review
May 11, 2017
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Zeynep Yürekli
Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012. 222 pp.; 57 b/w ills. Paper $54.95 (9781138270756)
The architecture of shrines has been neglected in Islamic architecture scholarship until recently. Among others, Kishwar Rizvi and John Curry have demonstrated how architectural patronage and the writing of hagiographies are intricate political acts and deserve a common analysis (Kishwar Rizvi, The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: Architecture, Religion and Power in Early Modern Iran, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011; and John J. Curry, The Transformation of Muslim Mystical Thought in the Ottoman... Full Review
May 10, 2017
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Robert DeCaroli
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. 280 pp.; 44 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780295994567)
Robert DeCaroli’s book bears the title Image Problems. But I read the text as Image Answers, for DeCaroli provides some remarkable insights into the conception and production of images by mining textual sources, both Buddhist and Brahmanical, in enormously impressive ways. For almost as long as the history of South Asian art has been studied, the question of when and where the Buddha image was first created—invented, some even might say—has been central. Given the long history of image... Full Review
May 3, 2017
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David Cole
Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia: Images Publishing, 2015. 256 pp.; 195 color ills. Cloth $66.24 (9781864706048)
Karen Livingstone, Max Donnelly, and Linda Parry
Exh. cat. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016. 320 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9781851778546)
The titles of these two books aptly indicate the ambiguity that has always plagued any attempt to classify the work of Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941). Is he the modernist architect who advocated concrete construction, the machine, and eschewed ornamented surfaces, or is he the artisan architect who upheld the teachings of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Ruskin, followed Gothic principles, and produced scores of ornamental designs for furniture, wallpaper, and textiles?... Full Review
May 3, 2017
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Patricia Blessing
Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 240 pp.; 10 color ills.; 73 b/w ills. Cloth $109.95 ( 9781472424068)
Patricia Blessing’s Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rūm, 1240–1330 seeks to place the monuments within their immediate social and political landscape. Departing from previous approaches to the subject that have stressed continuities with architectural traditions of the prior Seljuk and later Ottoman period, Blessing instead emphasizes the local circumstances in which the monuments were produced. She considers how building forms and... Full Review
April 28, 2017
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Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton, eds.
Exh. cat. New York: New Museum in association with Phaidon, 2016. 192 pp.; 114 color ills. Cloth $59.95 (9780714871783)
Exhibition schedule: New Museum, New York, February 3–April 10, 2016
Anri Sala: Answer Me, organized by the New Museum’s artistic director Massimiliano Gioni and associate curators Margot Norton and Natalie Bell, is the artist’s first comprehensive survey exhibition in the United States. Sala (b. 1974) is an Albanian artist who lives and works in Berlin and uses primarily video to investigate the underlying structure of music and sound. Many of his works deal with emotional histories of architectural spaces as told by live and recorded musical... Full Review
April 27, 2017
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