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

Browse Recent Essays

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “emerge” as: “to come forth into view . . . from an enclosed space.” This definition has implications for the study of landscapes, especially those of the productive English countryside. Tidy patchwork fields and hedgerows have come to be regarded as quintessentially—and innately—English. However, what is not necessarily part of this perception (even though it has long been studied by historians, geographers, and archaeologists) is how such a renowned topography quite literally emerged from systematic enclosures over the past few hundred years. In other words, the English landscape as it is perceived today… Full Review
January 11, 2011
In October 2009, the Toronto Photography Seminar and the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of the United States co-sponsored Feeling Photography, an international, interdisciplinary conference convened to investigate photography’s relationship to affect, emotion, and feeling. Conference presentations engaged and extended recent critical discussions of affect, which address aspects of human experience that have been largely under-theorized, ignored, or excluded from discourse. Put simply, affect foregrounds the body’s responses to stimuli at the moment when these responses meet cognition and enter into language as thinking-feeling states that move across historical distinctions separating mind and body. As such, discussions… Full Review
September 9, 2010
The museum marks a place where rule-based ethics and a reliance on principles, codes, laws, and mission statements actively intersect with situational ethics and the invocation of consequentialist arguments. While it may not be news that, in theory, the ethical dimensions of museum practice involve every area of the profession and all genres of museums, the manifold ways in which theory might confront those practices are sometimes less clear. At New Directions in Museum Ethics: Conference of Graduate Student Research a diverse group, including graduate students, recent graduates, and senior scholar/practitioners in various specializations and disciplines, made… Full Review
August 18, 2010
In the preface to Sociology of the Arts: Exploring Fine and Popular Forms (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), Victoria Alexander reminds her readers that “scholarship . . . necessarily constructs an arena in which combatants from different perspectives battle over each other’s claims” (xiii).The role of scholarship, so defined, has had a rather negligible, and virtually non-existent, place in the traditional development of arts management as a field. It has evolved, instead, through a process of apprenticeship and practice (which in itself may be worthy of scholarly inquiry). Even so, as a relative late-comer to academia and to recognition as a formal… Full Review
July 22, 2010
Historically the book has served as a locus for the interaction of disparate forces. Dimensionally complex, it has been a place where material, cultural, structural, philosophical, temporal, mechanical, and aesthetic elements can encounter, react, assert, concede, proselytize, and reconcile. That the poet Charles Baudelaire can compare himself to a beggar nourishing his vermin while doing so in formal alexandrine meter, that the book can act in one moment as a container of authority and in the next as an agitator for change merely illustrate the interplay of forces at work within the book form. What makes artists’ books different… Full Review
February 3, 2010
Thumbnail
Amanda D'Amico
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, MN., July 25, 2009.. College Art Association.
On July 25, 2009, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) in Minneapolis held its first ever Book Art Biennial. Consisting of a speaker, two panels, several exhibitions, and the awarding of the inaugural MCBA Prize, the biennial brought together book artists and advocates in an intimate environment to share their ideas about the efficacy of artists' books as agents of social change and tools of activism. John Risseeuw opened the conference with a keynote address entitled “John Risseeuw: Making a Difference?” Well known for his socially and politically conscious artworks, including his Paper Landmine Print Project (2002), Risseeuw… Full Review
January 20, 2010
Thumbnail
In 1942, Laurence Vail Coleman, then president of the American Association of Museums, sought to define the special nature of the campus museum: “The campus museum should be, above all, an instrument of teaching or research, or of both.” And, he wrote, “the first duty of a university or college museum is to its parent establishment, which means that the faculty and student body have a claim prior to that of townspeople and outsiders in general.”[1] In College and University Museums: A Message for College and University Presidents, Coleman addressed not only art museums but natural history, anthropology, and… Full Review
August 12, 2009
“It’s interesting, isn’t it, that in twenty-five years of curating shows, I can’t recall a single artist mentioning Greenberg, let alone taking his ideas seriously.” This remark––made by the chief curator of a major U.S. museum of contemporary art during a coffee break at the “Clement Greenberg at 100: Looking Back to Modern Art” symposium––helped me gain some perspective on the event. So did the introduction by the organizers, Miguel de Baca and Prudence Peiffer, graduate students in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, both working on the art of the 1960s. How, then, might they… Full Review
July 14, 2009
Thumbnail
Michael Meister’s review of my book The Temple Architecture of India brings to the fore two basic and interrelated questions about medieval Indian temples. How should one name and classify their various forms? And how were these forms conceived and designed? The review focuses largely on typology and terminology. Meister implies one general criticism: that I do not adequately follow the names suggested for shrine forms by inscriptions and texts. Here the distinction needs to be made between deciphering the intended meaning of architectural categories used in texts with no illustrations, and categorizing, through illustrations as well as words,… Full Review
June 11, 2008
Although not well known to the general public, the eighteenth-century French painter and draughtsman Gabriel de Saint-Aubin has long compelled specialists working on virtually every aspect of Parisian social and cultural life. His exuberant depictions took the form of drawings in chalk, ink, and watercolor, as well as etchings and a few oil paintings, while his subjects ranged over most aspects of the cultured world around him: social interaction both high and low; theater; royal ceremony; legal proceedings; portraiture; history; architecture and ornamental design; and the unique product for which he is best known, miniature depictions of other artists’ works… Full Review
May 6, 2008
Thumbnail