Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens

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9780816670178: Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens

This groundbreaking analysis spotlights a select group of Man Ray’s photographs within the context of modernist photographic history and the “discovery” of African art by the early twentieth-century avant-garde. Featuring more than seventy photographs by Man Ray—some never before reproduced—alongside many rarely seen photographs of African art by his European and American contemporaries, Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens uncovers a virtually unknown chapter in both the inventive activities of this celebrated artist and in this overlooked facet of photographic history. Meticulously researched and compellingly presented, Wendy A. Grossman raises thought-provoking questions about the role photographs played in shaping perceptions of African art and, in turn, how such images led to distinctive modernist viewpoints across racial and geographic boundaries. Particularly notable is the treatment of the African pieces both as integral components of the modernist history to which they contributed and, as elucidated by original scholarship by African art experts, as objects with their own independent cultural histories. Revealing a more complex engagement with African art by Man Ray and his contemporaries than has been previously known, Grossman provides a rich and nuanced study that makes an important addition to our understanding of critical issues in modernism that continue to influence the way we see African art today.

With an essay by Ian Walker and additional contributions by Yaëlle Biro, Poul Mørk, Rainer Stamm, and Tomás Winter. Concordance of African objects edited by Letty Wilson Bonnell.
 

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About the Author:

Wendy A. Grossman is an independent scholar and curator.

Review:

"Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens single-handedly resuscitates the photograph as a critical and almost completely overlooked medium in promoting the popularity and understanding of l'art negre for a western audience. The monumental studies of Robert Goldwater and William Rubin—comprehensive and engaging though they may have been—overlooked the influential role played by the photograph in this context, a regrettable lacunae this endeavor seeks to fulfill. Not only does this exhibition and catalogue complete a chapter in our understanding of Man Ray's work, but its cross-cultural approach allows us to see how the medium of photography influenced the infusion and comprehension of African and other non-western arts in the west, not only among artists, but by the general public as well." —Francis M. Naumann

"Wendy A. Grossman provides a lively description of the discovery of African art by American artists, and its crucial role in the development of American modernism. Though parts of this story are common knowledge, the author pulls them together into a fresh, comprehensive survey." —Afterimage

 

"Grossman is particularly attuned to the transformations in perception and meaning that occur as an object becomes an image. Furthermore, as a photography historian, she continually alerts us to the unique aspects of the medium that secured it a central position in the telling of modernist primitivism. . . . Her text greatly aids us in our reading of these images, drawing attention to the camera angles, lighting, scale, and disorienting effects that these techniques produced . . . and the imperceptible ways in which broad public ideas of African art were reproduced through their publication." —Elizabeth Harney, Art Bulletin

 

"After reading Grossman’s book, one would expect that all future books on African art will include a variety of photographs from all angles, including commercial or Surrealist photographs, as well as ‘ethnographic’ and ‘museum quality,’ i.e. ‘neutral’ images. And in truth this new approach should not stop with African art . . ." —Allison Moore, African Arts

 

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Wendy A. Grossman
Editorial: International Arts and Artists (2011)
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Wendy A. Grossman
Editorial: International Arts and Artists (2011)
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