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

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Jessica Keating
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. 184 pp.; 37 color ills.; 23 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (9780271080024)
Presented in Paris in 1739, Jacques de Vaucanson’s fabricated duck, one of the most renowned examples of an automaton, could not only flap its wings and move its beak but also eat and excrete. Later discovered to have been pre-stuffed with fake waste, it indulged the Enlightenment desire for engineered imitations that modeled the inner workings of living forms. Voltaire declared that the shitting bird was the only reminder of the glory of France. The history of automata in the early... Full Review
October 24, 2018
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Linda Safran
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. 496 pp.; 20 color ills.; 149 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (9780812245547)
Italy, a relatively recently unified country, is often described as a patchwork of idiosyncratic regions. Even to this day, the food, customs, dialects, architecture, and terrain shift dramatically between neighboring villages, cities, and regions, Italians themselves proclaiming “campanilismo,” a competitive pride in their birthplace. By focusing on one particular region, Linda Safran gains a valuable insight into how one such distinctive identity emerged and developed in the Middle... Full Review
October 19, 2018
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Ezra Shales
London: Reaktion Books, 2017. 272 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $29.95 (9781780238227)
Ezra Shales’s The Shape of Craft derives its name as a pointed homage to George Kubler’s influential treatise, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962). Though he was an eminent Mesoamericanist, Kubler’s book had unusual reach and scope and was widely admired by modernists and practicing artists alike, including his former students at Yale, Sheila Hicks and Richard Serra. Clearly the work of an adroit and poetic storyteller, Shales’s book seeks to extend the... Full Review
October 15, 2018
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Patricia J. Fay
Series: Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Culture. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017. 376 pp.; 122 color ills.; 16 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (9780813054582)
Patricia J. Fay’s book, Creole Clay: Heritage Ceramics in the Contemporary Caribbean, fills a void in the broad and diverse history of world ceramics. She does this by focusing our attention on an area of the world generally thought of as a vacation destination instead of a region rich in culture with complicated histories of colonialism, the African diaspora, slavery, hard-won independence, culture, and art, specifically ceramics. Fay deftly weaves the history of this region with... Full Review
October 1, 2018
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Mireille M. Lee
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 382 pp.; 110 b/w ills. Hardcover $99.00 (9781107055360)
The study of the role of dress in ancient societies has seen a boom in recent years, absorbing new techniques in archaeology and approaches from “new dress history,” cultural studies, and theories of the body. Mireille Lee’s previous work has already been influential in putting Greek dress on the agenda, and this current volume offers new insights into dress as a communicative medium as well as synthesizing scholarship across a number of related subfields (gender, identity, ethnicity,... Full Review
September 28, 2018
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David Adjaye and Peter Allison
New York: Thames & Hudson, 2016. 400 pp.; 700 color ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780500343166)
This compact edition of David Adjaye’s exploration of Africa brings together in one volume the fruits of his eleven-year-long project to visit and visually document the capitals of the continent’s fifty-four countries. The front cover image of Adjaye, Africa, Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture serves as a key to the intellectual and conceptual approach of the book: a map of Africa’s six climatic zones. This map, credited to his architectural practice... Full Review
September 26, 2018
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D. Medina Lasansky, ed.
Pittsburgh: Periscope, 2014. 640 pp.; 126 ills. Paperback $35.00 (9781934772256)
This collection of essays has attracted little attention since its publication in 2014, an oversight that should be remedied. Through nineteen essays and nine photo essays edited by D. Medina Lasansky, The Renaissance: Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated places the early modern past and the postmodern present in dialogue with one another and examines the ways in which the Renaissance has been appropriated and received in Anglo-American popular culture. As Lasansky notes in the... Full Review
September 24, 2018
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Franklin Sirmans and Yael Lipschutz, eds.
Exh. cat. New York and London: Prestel, Delmonico, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015. 128 pp.; 80  color ills.; 24 b/w ills. Hardcover $39.95 (9783791354347)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 7, 2015–January 3, 2016
Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada takes an in-depth look at the artistic and biographical journey of the under-recognized African American artist and activist, Noah Purifoy (1917–2004) and his large-scale installation and home environment, the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum (1989–2004). This lush catalogue, richly illustrated with eighty photographs by Fredrik Nilsen, features insightful essays by Yael Lipschutz, art critic and archivist of the Noah Purifoy Foundation in Joshua Tree, California;... Full Review
September 20, 2018
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Diarmuid Costello
New York: Routledge, 2018. 166 pp.; 12 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9780415684491)
Diarmuid Costello’s book brings together an abundance of historical and analytical debates to make clear that the philosophy of photography is a delineated field in its own right. Although the title On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry reflects Susan Sontag’s seminal book and may bring to mind Vilém Flusser’s attempt to single-handedly philosophize photography, it is in no sense similar to those approaches. Costello has gathered a rich corpus of philosophical thoughts on two... Full Review
September 17, 2018
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Alessia Frassani
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. 256 pp.; 46 color ills.; 52 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (9780806157566)
In her microhistory of Yanhuitlan, a town in the rugged Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca, Mexico, Alessia Frassani complicates our understanding of the collaborative and enduring interchange of indigenous and European constituencies in New Spanish society. Although historians attempting to reconstruct the dynamics of an ancient, multiethnic community often discover that their evidence is random and scarce, the documentation of Yanhuitlan, in stone, wood, and paper, is fortuitously consistent.... Full Review
September 14, 2018
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