In this beautifully produced book, Misrach, a photographer best known for his pictures of the American desert, turns his lens to paintings by Thomas Cole, van Dyke, Bouguereau, Rubens, Eakins and other famous American and European artists and "rephotographs their signs, symbols, and gestures." By taking pictures of small sections of the paintings-their bottom left-hand corners, for example, and slices of their gilded frames-Misrach attempts to draw attention to "their manifestation of the Eurocentric values of race, religion, class, and gender touted in the rhetoric of Manifest Destiny." Portraits and allegories thus become politicized, their underlying assumptions questioned and implicitly critiqued. As Misrach puts it, "I thought this series of pictures reflected a collision between two primary practices of photography: appropriation art like Sherrie Levin's and the documentary tradition like Walker Evans'." Art historian Navjotika Kumar's dense scholarly essay illuminates but occasionally frustrates, while Getty Museum photography curator Weston Naef offers a brief and elegant postscript on the history of taking pictures of paintings.
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