Exploring the Source
“Primitivism” is less an aesthetic movement than a sensibility or cultural attitude that has informed diverse aspects of Modern art. It refers to Modern art that alludes to specific stylistic elements of tribal objects and other non-Western art forms. With roots in late 19th century Romanticism’s fascination with foreign civilizations and distant lands, it also designates the “primitive” as a myth of paradise lost for late-19th and 20th century culture.
However, the usage of the word “primitive” to describe cultures and creations outside of the European tradition is degrading, and Western artists generally did not understand the cultural symbols and art forms that they were appropriating. Also, the exposure to non-Western art was generally the result of colonialism, which had a profound and damaging impact on cultural traditions around the world. As a result, I would like for you to take a look at the non-Western art that inspired the artists that we have been exploring in order to gain a deeper appreciation for its rich history.
Please present a work of art or tribal artifact from one of these cultures and take a moment to describe its iconography, cultural context, and material and visual form. Once again, please include an image in your post. If you would like to write about a traditional art form that can’t easily be related to the European art that you’ve studied so far (such as Native American art), that is also an option.
Here are some links that may help you get started (but please note that you have many other options):
- African influences on Modern Art: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aima/hd_aima.htm (Links to an external site.)
- African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/african-art (Links to an external site.)
- Polynesian and Micronesian art and culture: http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/museum-map/galleries/africa-oceania-and-the-americas/353 (Links to an external site.)
- “Japonisme” and 19th century European art: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jpon/hd_jpon.htm (Links to an external site.)
- Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy. (Links to an external site.)htm (Links to an external site.)
- “Primitivism”: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/movements/195232 (Links to an external site.)
Your first essay assignment is closely related to the prompt for this discussion forum, and may give you some additional ideas.