Art History Newsletter reviews "Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens"

By Jeremy Miller
Art History Newsletter

Grossman_manray coverWendy A. Grossman’s thoroughly researched and lucidly written exhibition catalog Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens effectively reveals the process “by which African objects, formerly considered ethnographic specimens, came to be perceived as Modern art in the West” (XII). Photography and Man Ray are both at the center of this process, and given the wide range of interest which converges in the catalog, it will be of great interest to a variety of readers. At the core of the catalog is the argument that the photographs by Man Ray and other photographers of African art objects from the early twentieth century are anything but neutral. Grossman demonstrates that these photographs, in fact, not only serve to elevate the objects photographed from the status of ethnographic artifact to art object, but also to incorporate elements of those objects into the aesthetic and conceptual discourses of Modernism.

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