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

Browse Recent Book Reviews

Lonnie G. Bunch III
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2019. 288 pp.; 20 ills. Cloth $29.95 (9781588346681)

“I wanted a museum that was a tool to help people find a useful and useable history that would enable them to become better citizens; a museum that would explore and wrestle with issues of today and tomorrow as well as yesterday,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch III in A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of... Full Review

September 12, 2019
Thumbnail
Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017. 540 pp.; 450 color ills. Cloth $48.00 (9780253032058)

In Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla explore Brazilian religious-themed art rooted in European- and African-based faiths. The authors limit their study to the northeastern states of Bahia and Pernambuco, where “Native, European, and African cultures first fused into something new and Brazilian” (2). Their examination demonstrates that artists continue to draw inspiration from both the European- and African-originated... Full Review

September 10, 2019
Thumbnail
François Brunet
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2017. 400 pp.; 33 b/w ills. Paper €27.00 (9782130654322)

Editor’s note: François Brunet, the author of the book under review, passed away unexpectedly on December 25, 2018. Didier Aubert, Brunet’s first doctoral student, wrote this review and commemoration. While caa.reviews upholds firm conflict of interest guidelines that prevent the commissioning of reviews where there might be a personal or professional connection between reviewer and reviewee, here we made an exception in order to acknowledge Brunet’s significant... Full Review

September 6, 2019
Thumbnail
Henk van Nierop
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. 452 pp.; 123 b/w ills. Cloth €99.00 (9789462981386)

Two themes dominate this premier biography of the Dutch Golden Age celebrity Romeyn de Hooghe: art and ambition. De Hooghe was a prolific and successful graphic artist who produced a wide and diverse array of etchings, engravings, prints, paintings, sculptures, and emblem books and medals, many of whose images are virtually synonymous with the culture of the late Golden Age and can be found in nearly every textbook on the subject. Such were De Hooghe’s skills that the stadtholder-king... Full Review

September 5, 2019
Thumbnail
Andrew H. Chen
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. 325 pp.; 13 color ills.; 66 b/w ills. Cloth $115.00 (9789462984684)

Flagellant sodalities originated in 1260 following the tumultuous processions of self-scourging lay penitents who, enflamed by the charismatic Fra Raniero Fasani of Perugia, beseeched God for peace and mercy. Their number significantly increased throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as flagellation became a structured lay male ritual enacted in both private confraternal spaces and public processions. From the later quattrocento, flagellation in large part was no longer a... Full Review

September 4, 2019
Thumbnail
Kishwar Rizvi, ed.
Arts and Archaeology of the Islamic World, vol. 9. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2017. 224 pp.; 94 ills. Cloth $140.00 (9789004340473)

Attention to structures of patronage in the creation of works of art and architecture has furthered our understanding of the sociopolitical context of material culture in the Islamic world. However, this approach has also overshadowed questions of materiality and a more comprehensive range of human-object relationships. In an attempt to redress this imbalance, scholars have increasingly pushed the roles of the artist, the audience, and the multisensorial experience of spaces and objects to... Full Review

August 28, 2019
Thumbnail
William Chapman Sharpe
New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 440 pp.; 113 color ills.; 42 b/w ills.; 155 ills. Cloth $74.00 (9780190675271)

Is a shadow a “physical event” or a “matter of perception? A thing or an absence of something?”(7). In Grasping Shadows: The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film, William Chapman Sharpe argues that the shadow—a phenomenon as illusory and mysterious as it is tangible and commonplace—is a crucial motif employed by artists and writers seeking to express humanity’s relationship to the “unseen.” In this ambitious feat of interdisciplinary criticism, Sharpe... Full Review

August 14, 2019
Thumbnail
Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens, eds.
Exh. cat. Long Beach, CA: Museum of Latin American Art in association with Fresco Books / SF Design LLC and Duke University Press, 2017. 352 pp.; 200 color ills. Paper $50.00 (9781934491584)
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA, September 16, 2017–January 28, 2018; Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, June 1–September 23, 2018; Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling, New York, June 28–September 23, 2018; Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, October 13, 2018–January 13, 2019; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR, February 1–May 5, 2019; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, June 22–September 8, 2019

Consider visual art as a unique mode of communication capable of bridging the multicultural and multilingual Caribbean islands. Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, an exhibition catalogue coedited by Tatiana Flores and Michelle Ann Stephens (curator of and advisor to the exhibition, respectively), suggests precisely this. Through engaging Caribbean literature and theory, they suggest that visual artwork (here including installation art,... Full Review

August 9, 2019
Thumbnail
Megan Brandow-Faller, ed.
Material Culture of Art and Design. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018. 352 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (9781501332029)

Childhood by Design contains a variety of essays that investigate the reasons toys exist. The design of childhood itself is examined, as well as the ways toys have helped form (and reform) our ideas about children. Commercial factors including manufacturing, marketing, and distribution have influenced toy creation and as a result the creation of children. The book also offers diverse topics, points of view, writing styles, and ideas about what an academic essay can be. In the... Full Review

August 6, 2019
Thumbnail
Lyndon K. Gill
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018. 312 pp.; 16 color ills.; 20 b/w ills. Paper $26.95 (9780822368700)

Toward the end of the last chapter of Erotic Islands, Lyndon K. Gill reflects on the benefits and challenges of “queer ethnography” as a methodology. According to the author, situating the speaking subjects of ethnography is necessary in order to both highlight the “experiential specificity” of the ethnographer’s lived time in the field (213) and to avoid turning ethnographic subjects into “representational abstractions” (215) that overlook the internal dynamism and fluid nature of... Full Review

August 1, 2019
Thumbnail