Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art (Paperback)

A Documentary History (Documents of Twentieth-Century Art)

By Jack Flam (Editor), Miriam Deutch (Editor)

University of California Press, 9780520215030, 508pp.

Publication Date: March 27, 2003

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This book is the first to bring together texts documenting the encounter between Western artists and writers and what has historically been called primitive art—the traditional, indigenous arts of Africa, Oceania, and North America. Beginning with the "discovery" of that art by European artists and writers early in the twentieth century, this anthology charts the evolving pictorial responses, artistic aspirations, aesthetic theories, and cultural debates that have developed from this encounter. Written by artists, literary figures, collectors, museum curators, and cultural critics, these essays—most of them never before translated or reprinted—show the dazzling range of issues elicited by the confrontation with primitive arts and cultures.

Primitivism designates not a specific movement or group of artists, but a persuasive notion crucial to twentieth-century art and modern thinking generally. Because the encounter between the West and primitive art took place at the height of Western colonialism, a number of racial and political issues come into play, either overtly or implicitly, in writings about both the art and the people who produced it. The contributions to this volume speak to each other in provocative ways, giving a unique overview of those issues.

Jack Flam provides an introduction to the book and brief outlines for each of its four sections. Also included are a coda of quotations from artists and critics from throughout the century; a chronology of events, exhibitions, and publications; an extensive bibliography; and over forty illustrations.

About the Author

Jack Flam is Distinguished Professor of Art History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern art and on African art. His recent works include Western Artists/African Art (1994), Matisse on Art (California, 1995), and Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (California, 1996). Miriam Deutch is Associate Professor specializing in Art History at the Brooklyn College Library and author of Images from Columbia's Past 1865-1945 (1982).