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This fall caa.reviews celebrates its fifteenth year of publication. Founded in the fall of 1998, the online journal has published thousands of reviews of books, exhibitions, and more. The journal averages approximately 150 reviews annually.
The journal’s editor-in-chief, Sheryl Reiss, has been involved with caa.reviews since the beginning, first as field editor for books on early modern Southern European art and then as an editorial-board member. In 2010 she returned as editor designate, taking the reins from Lucy Oakley of New York University’s Grey Art Gallery in July 2011. CAA News spoke with Reiss in October via email.
How does caa.reviews fit in with established online journals such as Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, as well as with newer digital publications and reviews journals (Triple Canopy, Cassone, Art Book Review)?
The journal distinguishes itself from these and other online publications in several ways. Founded in 2002, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide focuses exclusively on the “long” nineteenth century in a global context and publishes scholarly articles along with reviews of exhibitions and books. In contrast, caa.reviews covers materials from all periods and cultures, and while we seek to expand the number of essays we publish, our primary focus is on reviews of books, exhibitions, conferences, and recently, digital media. In this sense we also differ from the website of the Historians of Netherlandish Art, which includes a vibrant selection of book reviews. Our audience, currently CAA members, consists primarily of art historians, artists, museum professionals, and others with academic affiliations or interests.
When the journal becomes open access next year, we anticipate significant expansion of our readership. The newer review journals you mention serve a broader public with greater emphasis on contemporary art and exhibitions in commercial galleries. Cassone, which focuses primarily on art in the United Kingdom, features interviews and editorial commentary, which could be fruitful paths for our journal to follow.
Have you noticed any subject trends in caa.reviews over the last year or two? If so, have they matched other trends in the academic and museum worlds?
Our coverage is so broad, and the interests of our more than thirty field editors—the group of scholars that commissions the book and exhibition reviews—so varied, that it is difficult to isolate just a few specific trends. That said, I would say that across the board I have noticed interest in materiality as a focus of books under review. Another major trend—in both academia and museums—is tremendous interest in global themes and cross-cultural interchange. In my view, one of the greatest strong points of caa.reviews is the extraordinary range of topics and approaches covered in our reviews.
Field editors will soon write subject pieces of their own, called “Re-views,” which I understand will be somewhat similar to the recent “State of the Field” essays in The Art Bulletin. What would you like to achieve with these contributions?
For some time, members of the caa.reviews Editorial Board have expressed their desire to increase the number of essays we publish. Indeed, this was a goal of the founding editors of the journal.
At the CAA Publications Committee session I organized and chaired at the Annual Conference in February of this year, titled “Book Reviews and Beyond: caa.reviews at 15,” the panel (consisting of past editors of the journal and former editorial-board members) considered the scope and object of the reviewing enterprise—not only of books and exhibitions, but also in a more comprehensive sense. The participants and audience members agreed that expanding our efforts to publish thematic essays would be one way to broaden the journal’s mission and appeal.
While somewhat similar to our sister journal’s “State of the Field” essays, the “Re-views” series will provide a locus for our field editors to reflect upon their respective fields as seen through the lens of the reviews they have commissioned. We envision publishing one or two of these essays each year, in which the field editors will consider the topics, methodologies, and debates current in publications and exhibitions in their respective areas.
Our first essay in the series, by Tanya Sheehan (field editor for photography and an editorial-board member), is titled “Reflections on Photography” and was published in early October. It is our hope that this series will see anew—or re-view—the many fields covered by caa.reviews in the context of reviews the journal has published.
What were some of the challenges and highlights when initiating, working on, and completing the Scalar project on the exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay?
Perhaps the greatest challenge was learning to use the Scalar digital platform, which is very powerful, but also quite daunting. Some of the work was using HTML code, which I had not done for many years. Thankfully, the staff at the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (which provided a generous grant for the project) was always there to help.
One of the great highlights was making the video walkthrough last February at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The project not only permits users to visit the exhibition virtually, it also includes an introductory essay, links to other educational videos and to reviews by a scholar and an artist, a bibliography of further reading, and an interview with one of the curators. I should add that it was a joy to work with two of the exhibition’s curators, C. D. Dickerson III of the Kimbell and Tony Sigel of the Harvard Art Museums. I was fortunate to attend the study days associated with the show both in New York and Fort Worth, which greatly enriched my understanding of Bernini’s terra-cotta models. Finally, I have been really thrilled by the positive response to the project, particularly for classroom use.
How has the road to open access been for the journal? How can the journal encourage more commentary and interaction?
This is a very exciting time for caa.reviews. The path to open access for the journal has been long and steep, with a number of roadblocks along the way. For many years, it has been the desire of past editors and editorial-board members to reinstate the journal’s initial open status. The topic has been discussed at every meeting of the editorial board since I rejoined the journal in 2010, and it is a source of much gratification that in 2014, with the advent of CAA copublishing its journals with Taylor & Francis, the journal will once again be open to all interested readers worldwide. This is a great accomplishment! The editorial board is exploring new ways of presenting review content as the journal’s audience continues to expand. These include implementing moderated commentary and increasing the use of multimedia platforms, as in the recently completed Scalar Bernini project.