by Anne Collins Goodyear, Jonathan Frederick Walz, and Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo. Bowdoin College Museum of Art; Yale University Press, June 2016. 264 p. ill. ISBN 9780300211931 (cl.), $60.00.
Reviewed September 2016
Mackenzie Salisbury, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Flaxman Library / School of the Art Institute of Chicago, email@example.com
In a time when identity, politics, and technology are so prevalent in our daily lives, This is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today, reveals a new narrative of the progression of portraiture in American art. Written in parallel with its namesake exhibition (held at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, June-October 2016), these writings focus on the way American artists shifted their practice of depiction from replication, towards experimental, conceptual, and metaphorical representations of self. The publication is broken up into shorter essays or chapters, and the progression of these essays moves from the early 1900s through today's contemporary abstract portraiture. By creating strong connections between these new forms of representation and political, technological, and social changes in American history, we are able to see how contemporary concepts, such as social media, play a role in how we view ourselves and others.
Contributors to this title cover a wide array of curators, researchers, museum directors, and academics, giving this book an interesting mix of authoritative perspectives. Intended for an academic audience, there is some material that assumes a basic knowledge and understanding of American art history. The language used is appropriate for an undergraduate level course and includes a thorough "For Further Reading" bibliography. Each section contains relevant accompanying images embedded in the text and a well-balanced typography choice that is inviting to read.
The authors include a wide range of sources, from respected journals and exhibition reviews, to more contemporary resources such as websites and interviews. Physically, this title is substantially made with a hardcover binding and well-designed paper book cover. The interior pages are of high quality, giving the printed images a great presentation on paper. The catalog has beautiful full-page reproductions of works cited, corresponding bibliographic information, and background text and footnotes about the artists and their work. Images range from well-known to lesser-known works, affirming many of the claims made within the text. Artists whose work is represented include Charles Demuth, Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jasper Johns, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, to name just a few.
This is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today, would make an excellent addition to any contemporary art history collection. Bringing a fresh approach to the traditional views of portraiture, the images and concepts presented enable us to reconsider visual representations of self in contemporary art.