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

Reviews in caa.reviews are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Julia Bryan-Wilson
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2023. 352 pp.; 105 color ills.; 24 b/w ills. $60.00 (9780300236705)
Four, slim volumes covered in soft, matte black paper set inside the recess of a black, rectangular box, Louise Nevelson’s Sculpture: DRAG, COLOR, JOIN, FACE tangibly announces its subject. Julia Bryan-Wilson’s study focuses on the sculpture for which Nevelson is best known: monochromatic found-object wood assemblages, frequently consisting of modular (if not always movable), rectangular, “shadowbox” reliefs, which Nevelson built continuously from the early 1950s until her death in 1988. If this “signature” visual language brings to mind some of the central tenets of Euro-American modernism (for instance, the grid, abstraction, individualism), Bryan-Wilson argues that the colors… Full Review
July 15, 2024
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John Guy
New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2023. 344 pp.; 322 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9781588396938)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, July 21–November 13, 2023
For the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (Met) Tree and Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India exhibition of South Asian art, an array of one hundred forty breath-taking major works dated ca. 200 BCE to 400 CE made their way across the world, perhaps never to be seen again in the US during our lifetimes. The Tree and Serpent curator John Guy centered the exhibition on the art that arose from the first lived tradition of Buddhism in the world. The exhibition shifted our understanding of early South Asian art in two critical ways—first, away from Buddha images as bodily representations… Full Review
July 10, 2024
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Ulysse Jardat and José de Los Llanos, eds.
Paris: Paris Musees, 2023. 254 pp. Cloth £39.00 (9782759605705)
Blue velvet lines the nécessaire made of bois de violette and mahogany. The contents consist of two small teacups and a teapot imported from Asia, a sugar pot, a gold box for tea leaves, a crystal flask, and two teaspoons. This exquisite service for two, which packages intimacy, luxury, and convenience in semiprecious materials, embodies the values of the Regency. Between 1715 and 1723, France was governed from Paris by the owner of this nécessaire, Philippe II d’Orléans, the nephew of Louis XIV and the granduncle of the minor king Louis XV. The subject of a recent exhibition and… Full Review
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Lucy Freeman Sandler
London: British Library, 2022. 176 pp. Cloth £25.00 (978-0712354363)
Books can be many things. In Penned & Painted: The Art and Meaning of Books in Medieval in Renaissance Manuscripts they are the central feature, sign, and iconographic motif in illuminated manuscripts. In this beautifully produced volume, Lucy Freeman Sandler takes the prevalent pictorial phenomenon of book-images in manuscripts and thematically unpacks it into a wide-ranging study. She includes representations of books that are open or closed, rolls (representing written words), and scrolls (representing oral speech), forming a compelling study of book-images in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts through various contexts of donation, destruction, and use. Sandler writes that the idea… Full Review
July 3, 2024
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Kiff Bamford and Margret Grebowicz, eds.
London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. 248 pp.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $103.00 ( 9781350192027)
Jean-François Lyotard is probably mostly known to the general reader for The Postmodern Condition, which sparked a debate that still goes on today even though the term “postmodernism” seems to have lost much of its appeal. His writings, however, cannot be subsumed under this heading, as if constituting a program: they trace a sinuous line that blurs divisions between genres, refuses institutional boundaries, and displays many twists and turns. Kiff Bamford and Magaret Grebowicz’s Lyotard and Critical Practice contains a series of original essays as well as selections from Lyotard’s writings providing us with multiple approaches to Lyotard’s work… Full Review
July 1, 2024
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Elizabeth L. Lee
New York: Bloomsbury, 2021. 240 pp.; 80 b/w ills. (9781501346880)
Within the ever-expanding literature produced at the intersection of art and the health humanities, The Medicine of Art offers a thoughtful reframing of familiar people and places in which disease is not a disjuncture, but a point of connection, community, and intense artistic inquiry. Looking beyond the clinic, Elizabeth Lee argues that fin-de-siècle artists confronted with serious illness found a kind of relief in creative practice that period medicine could not offer. Her book skillfully interlaces extensive archival work with diverse perspectives from art historians, scholars of cultural and medical history, and theorists including Arthur Frank, Susan Sontag, Katherine Ott… Full Review
June 26, 2024
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Emilie Boone
Durham: Duke University Press, 2023. 288 pp.; 76 color ills. $27.95 (9781478024903)
The significance of James Van Der Zee (1886–1983) to the history of photography and to the story of Black life and culture in the twentieth century is immense. And yet, as Emilie Boone elucidates in her sterling book, A Nimble Arc: James Van Der Zee and Photography, there is much about the artist’s prodigious and probing practice that beckons further consideration. Some of what has made it difficult to narrate Van Der Zee’s extraordinary artistic achievements tidily, Boone observes, is the sheer length of his career, which spanned more than eight decades, from 1900–83. That his images shuttle between… Full Review
June 24, 2024
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Ittai Weinryb
Petersberg, Germany: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2023. 160 pp.; 55 color ills. Cloth £22.95 (9783731913450)
In 2018, Ittai Weinryb published an article in Speculum entitled “Hildesheim Avant-Garde: Bronze, Columns, and Colonialism.” Its primary objects of study were the famous bronze doors and the less well-known, but equally impressive, bronze column made around the year 1000 for Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim. Many of the arguments of this important article were adumbrated in its title. Weinryb used the term avant-garde in its double sense: 1) the extended one, familiar to art historians, to describe forward-looking artistic production; and 2) the original, more literal military sense, to refer to front-line shock troops. This literal meaning was crucial to… Full Review
June 21, 2024
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Amy McNair
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2023. 268 pp.; 9 color ills. $49.95 (9780674293748)
In her book The Painting Master’s Shame: Liang Shicheng and the Xuanhe Catalogue of Paintings, Amy McNair demonstrates the breathtaking rise of eunuch officials under Emperor Huizong’s reign (r. 1100–26), and their involvement in art production and management. She argues that the renowned Xuanhe Catalogue of Paintings (1120), referred to as the Catalogue was not authored or directed by Emperor Huizong but by his powerful eunuch Liang Shicheng (ca. 1063–1126). An important inventory for third- through twelfth-century paintings held in the palace storehouses, the Catalogue classifies 6,396 paintings into ten subject categories, adding explanatory prefaces and 231 artists’ biographies… Full Review
June 17, 2024
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Alexandra Chiriac
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022. 232 pp.; 23 color ills. Paper $45.99 (9783110765588)
For historians of East European art, who have long labored to fill gaps in the historical record left by loss or disregard, the publication of compelling new information in Alexandra Chiriac’s recent book, Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-Garde in Bucharest, will be most welcome. Chiriac not only provides newly uncovered material on design and theater in interwar Romania that corrects long-held assumptions, but also enriches the chronicle of Jewish and women’s contributions to the avant-garde with fresh insights. Chiriac establishes her position at the outset: bringing design and theater into the foreground enlarges the arena of avant-garde activity and… Full Review
June 12, 2024
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Aglaya K. Glebova
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2023. 256 pp.; 55 color ills.; 83 b/w ills. Cloth (9780300254037)
You would be forgiven for thinking that the image on the back cover of Aleksandr Rodchenko: Photography in the Time of Stalin was included there by mistake. The photograph—a 1933 snapshot of two logs floating in a stagnant pool of water—is not what we associate with Rodchenko’s camerawork. Quite the opposite, in fact. Rodchenko was, by both his own assertions and scholarly consensus, a photographer committed to capturing Soviet technocracy in all its fast-paced, forward-looking dynamism. There must have been a mix-up in the design studio, then, for this monograph to emerge emblazoned with an image of pond life on… Full Review
June 10, 2024
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Lisa Gail Collins
Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2023. 200 pp.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (9780295751603)
A little over ten years ago, I received two crib quilts made and gifted by family members at a baby shower celebrating my first-born daughter, Abigail. There were many “oohs” and “ahhs” from family and friends, as they knew the quilts were carefully made with love and joy for the baby’s arrival. Several years prior, I had directed and produced a documentary called The Skin Quilt Project, which recounted African American quilters and scholars telling of the transformative power of the African American quilt tradition across the United States, including in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. African American quilters in the… Full Review
June 5, 2024
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Miriam Kienle
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2023. 304 pp.; 108 b/w ills. $34.95 (9781517911638)
In Queer Networks: Ray Johnson’s Correspondence Art, Miriam Kienle describes Ray Johnson as an artist of “unassimilable oddness’’ (168). Johnson’s correspondence work is funny, silly, poetic, complicated, and often homoerotic. It makes use of recognizable pop-cultural imagery and engages several well-known figures in the New York art worlds of the 1950s and 1960s, enmeshing them in a complex web of wordplay, animal symbolism, mid-century gay cultural references, and personal and professional tensions. The work’s possible meanings and potential interpretations can seem never-ending. One of the pleasures of studying Johnson’s work is its seemingly immutable resistance to straightforward art-historical analysis… Full Review
June 3, 2024
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Janice Rieger
1st edition . Routledge, 2023. 132 pp.; 12 b/w ills. Cloth $136.00 (9781032076843)
Janice Rieger’s Design, Disability and Embodiment: Spatial Justice and Perspectives of Power distills the methodologies and lessons she has refined through years of collaborative fieldwork and analytic research in and on museums, malls, universities, and galleries in both Canada and Australia. Central to Rieger’s methodology of critical design access is the Design for All (DfA) movement. Rieger argues that DfA uniquely encourages what she terms “inclusive ecologies”: a process of examining knowledge bases, creating designs, and encouraging usership which integrates all users and abilities at every step. Similar movements that seek to incorporate disability with design practice (such as Universal… Full Review
May 29, 2024
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Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH November 23, 2023–April 14, 2024
Tai Shani is a conjurer of worlds. Out of the murk and miasma of millennia of forgotten histories and suppressed mythologies, she sets a stage for rituals and revelations, for psychedelic hallucinations and deeply embodied experiences of other potential realities. The 2019 Turner Prize winner’s first show in the United States, MBR: And above the beautiful commune, curated by Amara Antilla, transforms an entire floor of Zaha Hadid’s iconic building for Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center (CAC) into a cryptic occult space that evokes contradictory senses of scale and emotion. It is as enveloping as a womb and… Full Review
May 28, 2024
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