Classical African art from Mali, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria, amongst other regions, will be juxtaposed with a broad range of influential contemporary artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Marina Abramovic, Carolee Schneeman, Los Carpinteros, Alfredo Jaar, and Thomas Ruff. This unique exhibition is curated by the graduate students of the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, under the guidance of Susan Vogel – Columbia University Professor of African Art and founding Director of the Museum for African Art in New York.
Primitivism Revisited provides a rich context to explore the notion of Primitivism, a concept, which in the 20th century proposed a close, formal relationship between “primitive” (in that case African art) and contemporary western art. Historical connections between the two, commonly ascribed to the work of such artists as Gaugin and Picasso, were extensively studied in 1938 by Robert Goldwater, and was the subject of an exhibition curated by William Rubin at the Museum of Modern Art, entitled “Primitivism” in Modern Art, where Rubin famously termed the relationships he saw between “primitive” art and modern art “affinities” – connections that were based purely on complementary aesthetic vocabularies. Whilst highly critiqued, Rubin’s point of view has not subsequently been directly challenged in an exhibition setting.
Primitivism Revisited questions the validity of existing notions of “primitivism” in light of postmodern art practice. Compelling, new and perhaps unexpected themes – corporeal, power and authenticity, to name just a few – will be part of the exhibition.